Perfect pilaf rice made simple: A skill that every cook should learn for life

Writer, historian and chef Jason Goodwin whips up perfect pilaf, inspired by the food of Turkey, and flavoured with lemon, chilli and hazelnut.

Master the essentials, and the pilaf world is open to you hereafter. This pilaf rice offers a delicious combination of earthy, crunchy hazelnuts with citrus banknotes, with a little extra zing – is it the chilli or the cumin?

Recipes can specify the volume of water for a certain weight of rice, but in the kitchen it depends on the size of your pan as well as the level of heat and even the type of rice you use. My tip is to start with a little less water than you might need, and to add more from the kettle if necessary during cooking.

Do it a few times and you have a skill leaned for life.

Jason’s book, Yashim Cooks Istanbul, is out now published by Argonaut at £25.


  • 250g basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp butter or ghee
  • 1tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2tsp cumin
  • 3 strips lemon peel, sliced into julienne strips
  • 1 fresh red chilli, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 bunch parsley. chopped
  • 4tbsp blanched hazelnuts


Put the well-washed rice on a stove top and cover with the same quantity of boiling water and the salt. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rice is just done and all the water is absorbed.

While the rice is boiling, melt half the butter with the oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the cumin and coriander, then the julienned lemon peel and chilli and the hazelnuts. Let them warm through but don’t fry them.

When the rice is done tip it over the flavoured oil and butter mixture, stir gently, and return it to the rice pan, giving it a stir to draw the flavours of spice and lemon through the rice.

Dot the rice with the remaining butter, cover the pan with a cloth and leave to stand for at least ten minutes, then fluff with a wooden fork or spoon.

Scatter with parsley and serve with yoghurt sauce and lemon wedges.