Italy has its risotto, the Indian sub-continent has its biryani and Eastern Europe/Middle East has its pilaf. All different methods of cooking rice in stock. Alexander the Great, was reputedly a great lover of pilaf. Roast chicken with pilaf stuffing dates dates back a long time.
True to the guild system developed in the royal kitchens, the pilaf makers had their own guild so it is not surprising that pilafs are so popular in Turkey.
In the Turkish military in years gone by, each division had its own huge pilaf cauldron for cooking purposes. Specialist pilaf makers (not just cooks) fed the troops. The pilaf cauldron was therefore the focal point for each division.
The saying, “overturning the cauldron” has historical significance as when the military elite demanded a change in the Sultan’s cabinet or the head of the grand vizier, this was signaled to the Sultan by doing just that. Today, overturning the cauldron is still used to indicate rebellion!
In Turkey, pilaf can be made with rice or burghal. It is generally vegetarian and eaten as a standalone meal. It should contain nuts and dried fruits. It is comfort-food. In this recipe we will use the pilaf as a stuffing for the roast chicken.
One of our go-to dishes when we travel is roast chicken. Chicken is readily available everywhere and is generally much cheaper than red meat, particularly in Turkey where it was around a third of the cost of lamb and beef. We can’t think of anyone we know that does not like the rich fragrance of a roasting chicken. When it is cooking it fills your house with wonderful smells. And there is the added bonus of being able to make a good flavored stock with the leftover carcass and bones.
Roast chicken with pilaf stuffing has some Middle Eastern flair. It is slightly sweet with the cinnamon and currants. So be a bit rebellious yourself and give this recipe a try.
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- 4 lbs whole chickens whole*
- salt, ground sea
- black pepper, ground
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chicken stock *
- 1/2 cup parsley roughly chopped to garnish
- Pistachio Currant Pilaf Stuffing
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock *
- 2 ozs butter
- 1 onions, brown medium, roughly chopped
- 2 ozs pistachios roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp cinnamon, sticks (quills)
- 1/4 cup currants, dried
- 1/2 lemons freshly squeezed
- 1/3 cup walnuts roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup parsley freshly chopped
- Soak the rice for 10 minutes and then rinse to remove the starch. Put aside to drain.
- Heat the 3.5 cups of chicken stock and when boiling turn down to a simmer.
- In a pan with a lid, melt the butter over a low-medium heat and add the onion. Stir until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium. Add the pistachios, spices, currants and rice, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add 2.5 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Put the lid on the pan and turn the heat down so the stock simmers for about 15 minutes. Test the rice is cooked and then remove from the heat.
- Add the lemon juice, walnuts and parsley to the pilaf, fluff up with a fork and allow to cool.
- Pre-heat your oven to 390 f (200 c).
- Rinse the chicken inside and out and then dry with kitchen towel. Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
- When the pilaf is cool enough to handle, use half to stuff the cavity of the chicken. Secure the opening of the cavity so the stuffing remains inside. Rub the chicken all over with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper. Reserve the remaining pilaf.
- Place the chicken in a roasting dish, breast side up. Pour half the remaining stock into the dish and place in the oven. After 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 f (180 c) and cook for a further 1 hour 10 minutes.
- Allow the chicken to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gently reheat the remaining pilaf and stock.
- To serve, place the reheated pilaf on a platter, add the pilaf used as the stuffing. Cut the chicken into quarters and place on top of the pilaf. Sprinkle the parsley over everything and serve.
- Don’t forget to make stock with the leftover carcass and bones by making your own.
Cooking times will vary, based on the weight of your chicken and how fast or slow your oven is. The BBC has a very good roasting time estimator for all meats and weights. See:
Whenever cooking chicken it is important to make sure you are not eating under-cooked meat. Always check by inserting a skewer into the thick part of the thigh of the chicken. If the juice runs clear (not red) it is cooked. Check this about 10 minutes before the chicken is due to be taken out in case the oven is too hot. Better still use a meat thermometer. It should register 165-175f (75-80c).
Always let your chicken rest for a minimum 10 minutes before carving by wrapping loosely in foil.
Don’t use stock cubes or store bought prepared stock. Unless you buy an expensive one they will be full of salt and "additives”. Do yourself a favor and make your own chicken stock, including using the leftover bones from this recipe. It will be tastier and healthier.
Fresh red or black currants can be substituted for the dried version.
Wow this looks so interesting..never used pilaf as a stuffing in chicken…so aromatic
Yes not bad for a change to use a rice-based stuffing. The herbs and spices are good with the pilaf. Thanks for your comment.
That pilaf sounds wonderful! So aromatic… What a terrific stuffing.
It’s definitely worth trying for a change from bread-based stuffing. Thanks for your comment.
Christine | Vermilion Roots
I’ve only ever had bread stuffing. Rice stuffing is so refreshing!
It’s also the aromatics of the pilaf. Thanks for your comment.