Saffron pilau

Saffron pilau

Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

A marvellous dish for a party, barbecue or large lunch. It goes beautifully with cold roast beef or other meats, hot or cold chicken or grilled meat. It is good hot or cold and looks magnificent piled into a big dish. It is also excellent heaped into tomato cases, or moulded into a ring and filled with a savoury mixture. It is a failproof recipe – adding the liquid in 3 parts ensures that the rice will not go soggy.


Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons oil
2 onions, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon saffron, crumbled
400g long-grain rice
875ml chicken or vegetable stock, boiling
8 black peppercorns
2 cloves
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons salt
60g sultanas or raisins
80g almond halves, toasted
6 eggs, hard-boiled and halved, (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a heavy saucepan and gently fry onions until a pale golden colour. Make sure onions are soft but do not allow to burn; this will take quite a while.
  2. Add saffron and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add rice and fry gently, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until all rice is coated with oil and golden.
  3. Add 435 ml boiling stock, with peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and salt (reduce if stock is salty). Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 20–25 minutes or until rice is tender, adding more stock as it is absorbed.
  4. Add sultanas or raisins, cover and allow to plump. Turn off heat and keep covered until ready to serve.
  5. A few minutes before serving, uncover pan to allow steam to escape, fluff up rice with a fork and add almonds. Turn onto a large heated serving dish. For a main dish, garnish with eggs.


  • 1 teaspoon turmeric may be substituted for the saffron. It gives good colour but not the same flavour.


  • Pilau-stuffed tomatoes: Peel 12 firm tomatoes, scoop out centres with a teaspoon, salt inside and turn upside-down on paper towels for 10 minutes to drain. Brush tomatoes lightly with oil, then pile hot saffron pilau into the centres and place in a baking dish. Heat in a preheated moderate oven for 10 minutes.

    Pilau ring: Pack saffron pilau firmly into an oiled 1.75 litre ring mould. Rest in a warm place for 3–4 minutes, then put a heated platter over the mould and invert. Tap mould to release rice, and remove mould. If liked, fill centre with cooked mushrooms and peas, sautéed chicken livers tossed in a little cream or any other savoury filling.

    Saffron rice salad: Prepare saffron pilau. Combine 2 tablespoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons mustard (Dijon is best) and 6 tablespoons oil. Season to taste and beat with a fork until thick. Toss through rice. To this basic rice salad you can add 175 g diced cooked chicken; 80 g chopped green peppers and some chopped parsley. Shelled prawns and sliced tinned water chestnuts for a crispy contrast make another good combination. For a creamy salad, fold a little mayonnaise through the rice.
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