This technique for cooking rice provides a rich, delicious and flavoursome result. The technique can be used to create many different variations on the theme and depending on the additions to the rice while cooking, the pilaf can be served as a rice dish to accompany other meat, fish or vegetable dishes or can itself be the main event for an informal lunch or supper. The possible additions to a pilaf are many, and you can think about those in the same way as you would a risotto and, indeed, the two dishes have similarities. Try to keep vegetable additions in season.


  • 15g tablespoon butter
  • 1 tblsp finely chopped onion or shallot
  • 250ml basmati rice
  • 500ml light chicken stock
  • 1 level teaspoon salt


  • Basmati rice is the rice of choice here.
  • A chicken stock is the perfect liquid for this dish, though when I have it I use a turkey stock and it gives a fantastically rich and full bodied flavour to the dish.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and allow to foam. Add the onion and coat in the butter. Cover and cook on a very gentle heat for five minutes. You want the onion to soften slightly without colouring.
  • Add the rice and turn the grains gently in the buttery onions. Make sure not to break the grains of rice by being too heavy handed while stirring. Add the stock and salt and again stir gently to mix. Bring to a simmer and cover tightly. If you think the lid of your saucepan is not a tight fit, place a layer of tin foil under the lid.
  • Cook very gently on a low heat on the stove or place in a moderate oven, 180c/350f/gas 4 for approximately 15 minutes. By this time the rice should be perfectly cooked and have absorbed all of the liquid.
  • Avoid the temptation to take the lid off the saucepan before the 15 minutes have elapsed as this would allow the precious steam to escape.
  • When the rice is cooked it will remain hot in the covered saucepan for at least 30 minutes or for longer in an oven with the temperature reduced to 110c/225f/gas ¼.
  • For Pilaf Rice with Parsley: Stir 2 tablespoons of finely chopped flat parsley into the rice just before serving.
  • For Pilaf Rice with Saffron: I serve this with fish dishes such as scallops or shrimp. Most of the time I use chicken stock as above, but occasionally I will use a clear and clean tasting light fish stock when I am making the dish specifically to serve with fish. Add 1 generous pinch of saffron stamens to the onions when sautéing and proceed with the recipe.
  • For Pilaf Rice with Asparagus and Chervil: To the cooked master recipe add 120g of asparagus, cooked and each spear cut into 3-4 pieces along with 1 dessertspoon of finely chopped chervil just before serving.