African Pilaff

Tender pieces of marinated chicken add flavour to Samara Rolt's pilaff served with a refreshing chilli salad
African Pilaff
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes plus overnight marinating
  • Effort: medium


For the chicken and potatoes

  • 6 skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 waxy potatoes, quartered
  • 850 ml chicken stock

For the rice

  • 200 g basmati rice
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • tsp ground cardamom pods, (or seeds from 6 whole pods, crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 55 g raisins

For the chilli salad

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 birdseye chillies, seeds removed, flesh finely chopped
  • 7.5 cm piece cucumber, cut into 1cm pieces
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1cm pieces
  • small bunch coriander, chopped

To serve

  • 2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds
  • live plain yogurt


1. For the chicken and potatoes: season the chicken by rubbing it all over with the lemon juice, garlic and ginger. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and pepper and put in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

2. Put the marinated chicken in a large saucepan with the potatoes, and add enough stock to cover the chicken and potatoes completely. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until cooked and tender.

3. Remove the chicken and potatoes to a plate using a slotted spoon, cover and keep warm in a low oven. Reserve about 425ml of the cooking stock for cooking the rice.

4. For the rice: wash the grains in cold water, cover with fresh water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

5. Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat and fry the onions for about 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, spices and salt and fry for a further 5 minutes or until the smell of the spices comes through. Add the washed and drained rice and fry over a medium heat for 3 minutes or until the rice is coated with the oil and spices.

6. Add the reserved stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest possible level, cover the pan with foil and a tight-fitting lid (so no steam escapes) and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Stir in the raisins 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

7. For the chilli salad: put the onion in a heatproof bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, then cover with boiling water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes. Drain the onions and put them in a serving bowl. Add the chillies, cucumber, tomatoes and coriander (reserving 1 tablespoon for the garnish) and toss to mix. Set aside.

8. Remove the chicken from the bones and discard the bones. When the rice is cooked, gently stir in the chicken and potatoes, mixing well. Spoon the chicken and rice mixture onto a warm oval serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining coriander. Garnish with the toasted flaked almonds and serve with plain yogurt on the side.

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