COMFORT FOOD ALERT! (And we all need a little comfort at the moment, don’t you think?) Today’s recipe is a firm favourite in my kitchen. Gently spiced chicken and onions served with a warming pilaf of rice and chickpeas. Topped with juicy tomato and a hint of bright and zingy lemon, there are some incredible flavours going on in this Chicken and Chickpea Pilaf and I know you’re going to love it.
I have to make a confession. I hardly ever eat take-out food. As I’m most of the day in the kitchen, there is always plenty of food to grab out of the fridge so I don’t even think about it. However, when I lived in Cyprus, one of my greatest temptations was Tavuklu Nohutlu Pilav – shredded barbecue chicken with rice and chickpeas. This is a meal that is everywhere in the Turkish culture, from roadside stalls to supermarket counters and fast food joints. It’s always filling and delicious – especially when loaded up with juicy chicken and topped with some spicy pickled peppers.
As always, when I make a recipe at home I can’t help but experiment with the ingredients, so this recipe is by no means the official Turkish version, however, it IS delicious. You can make this recipe even faster if you grab a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, but the marinade and chicken thighs in this recipe are so quick and easy to put together (not to mention more economical) that they are basically made in the time it takes to cook the rice.
I hope you are all staying safe and healthy out there. Remember to take the time to breathe, be calm and keep stress to a minimum. x
Chicken & Chickpea Pilaf
for the marinade:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground paprika
- 1 tsp ground chilli
- ½ tsp sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
for the chicken:
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 large red onions, sliced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
for the pilaf:
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 150-175 g or 1 cup long grain rice
- 475 ml hot chicken stock, made with 2 tsp chicken stock powder
- 400 g tin chickpeas, drained
- 125 g cherry tomatoes, chopped
- fresh parsley
- pickled chilli peppers
- lemon slices
- sumac, to sprinkle over
- Heat the oven to 220°C / 425°F / Gas 7. Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl, slice the chicken thighs in half and toss through the marinade. Note: Chicken can be kept in the marinade for up to 24 hours in the fridge.
- Halve the red onions and slice finely. Scatter over the base of an approx. 20x30cm ovenproof dish, drizzle over the oil and toss to combine. Place the chicken thighs on top, in one layer if possible, pouring over any remaining marinade. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then turn the thighs over and bake for a further 10 minutes. Cover with tinfoil and keep warm.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pilaf by heating the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring over low heat for 5 minutes until softened, but not browned. Add the rice to the pan and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring so that it doesn’t catch.
- Pour in the hot stock and chickpeas, stir well, then bring to the boil. Cover the saucepan tightly and reduce the heat to minimum and cook very gently for 10-15 minutes (see note), until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- When you are ready to serve, either stir the chicken through the pilaf, fluffing it up with a fork (tastier as all the juices soak through the pilaf) or divide the chicken and pilaf between 4 plates (more beautiful as you can arrange it nicely). Scatter over the cherry tomatoes and some parsley and serve with pickled chillies and sliced lemon. I like to sprinkle over a big pinch of sumac but it’s not essential.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I don’t eat chicken, can I make this recipe without?
Of course, this is commonly eaten in Turkey and Cyprus as a purely vegetarian dish. Leave out the chicken and use vegetable stock. It’s comforting but you may like something with some texture alongside, a nice crisp salad or similar.
Can I make this pilaf in advance?
Definitely! In fact, I think things like this often benefit from reheating. It also freezes well, so is great for preparing well in advance for work or similar. When I cook rice that I know I will reheat, I use a little less water to stop it from getting soggy.
Is this pilaf spicy? I don’t like spicy food!
I use a fairly mild type of chilli in this, pul biber, which is commonly used in Turkish cooking. As always, the beauty of cooking at home is you can adjust the spice to suit your tastes. Replacing the chilli with ground ginger would be lovely and give a more mild heat.
What is Pul Biber?
A type of dried red pepper flake essential to Turkish cooking, sold from sweet to very very spicy! It’s sometimes known as Aleppo Pepper in English and can be found at any Turkish shop. You can replace it with mild chilli flakes.