Chicken pilau

Chicken pilau

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
450g boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
2 cm piece fresh root ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3-4 tablespoons oil or ghee, for frying
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
250g basmati rice
3 curry leaves
or 1 bay leaf
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
250ml hot water
freshly ground black pepper
handful coriander sprigs, to serve


  1. Cut the chicken into 3–4 cm pieces and season with salt. Halve, peel and finely slice the onions. Peel and finely chop the garlic and peel and grate the ginger. Measure all the ground spices into a small bowl.
  2. Heat 1–2 tablespoons oil or ghee in a large frying pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the chicken and stir-fry until lightly golden, but not cooked through. Take the pan off the heat, remove the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Return the pan to the heat, add 1–2 tablespoons oil or ghee and sauté the onions until they start to caramelise. Break the cinnamon stick in half and add to the pan. Crush the cardamom pods with the blade of a large knife and add them to the pan with the garlic and ginger. Cook for 1–2 minutes, then add all the ground spices and cook for a further 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the rice with the curry leaves or bay leaf, then add the chicken back to the pan with the tomatoes. Add the hot water, season with salt and plenty of pepper, about ½ teaspoon.
  5. Give the mixture a stir, then cover tightly and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes. The rice may still be a little undercooked at this point but the chicken should be cooked.
  6. Take off the heat and leave to stand, with the lid on, for 20 minutes; the rice will finish cooking in the residual heat. Remove the lid and stir gently with a fork to fluff up the rice. Serve topped with coriander sprigs.
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