Roast chicken and pilaf

Roast chicken and pilaf

Tavuk pilav

Eat Istanbul
David Loftus

You can also make this dish with a whole chicken stuffed with some of the rice pilaf, if you want. It’s a common sight at Turkish feasts to see lambs and chickens stuffed with rice medleys spilling out onto the roasting tins. I prefer to cook the chicken and rice separately, then combine them on a platter just before serving for dramatic effect.


Quantity Ingredient
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon kirmizi biber flakes or paprika
1 whole chicken, jointed into 6 pieces
2 fresh bay leaves
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
80g unsalted butter, softened
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
6 long green peppers
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons currants
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts
400g long-grain white rice, washed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Use a pestle and mortar to pound the garlic cloves and ½ tablespoon sea salt to a paste. Add the allspice, cumin, cinnamon and Kırmızı biber flakes to the mortar and continue to pound for a few minutes until the mixture is well combined.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and rub the spice mix all over them. Add the bay leaves and drizzle with half the olive oil. Refrigerate, covered, for a minimum of 30 minutes or longer if you can.
  3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, transfer the chicken pieces to a roasting tin and leave them to come to room temperature for 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220˚C.
  4. Season the chicken generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle the chicken pieces with the remaining olive oil and smear the butter over them, then pour about 100ml cold water into the roasting tin.
  5. Roast the chicken in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180˚C and continue to roast for about 1½ hours, basting occasionally with the juices in the pan, or until the meat is tender and the skin is crisp and golden. Thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the tomatoes and green peppers around the chicken in the tin. At the end of the cooking time, remove the tin from the oven and leave the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the pilaf. Put the currants in a small bowl, cover with warm water and leave them to soak for 20 minutes. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion and pine nuts for 7–8 minutes until softened. Add the rice and cinnamon and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour in enough hot water to just cover the rice, stir in the drained currants and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender – about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave covered for 10 minutes.
  7. Serve the pilaf with the roast chicken pieces, tomato quarters and green peppers.
Turkish food
Middle Eastern
Andy Harris
David Loftus
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