Rice Pilaf

As steamed rice is central to the cooking of Southeast Asia and the Far East, so pilaf is the ubiquitous rice dish of the Middle East. It is closest to a risotto in execution, the rice being fried with onion and spices to flavour it prior to being cooked in water or stock. The rice is, however, long-grain, and the finish much drier than a risotto. A pilaf may be enriched with butter and coloured with saffron, and it frequently includes dried fruit and nuts.


  • 115 g/ 4 oz onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 275 g/ 10 oz long-grain rice
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 6 whole cardamom pods
  • 500 ml/ 18 fl oz chicken stock
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • 30 g/ 1 oz butter, diced


Sweat the onion in the oil over a low heat until soft and translucent.

Turn up the heat, add the pine nuts and sti-fry, until just starting to brown.

Add the rice and the ground spices, and stir to mix and coat. Pour over the stock and add the cinnamon, raisins, bay leaf and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15–18 minutes.

Just before serving, discard the bay leaf and cinnamon and stir in the butter. Serve hot or at room temperature.