Barberry Rice Pilaf with Chicken

9 Jan


I met an Iranian woman recently who introduced me to barberries. They are a little, very sharp tasting berry used in pilaf dishes throughout the Middle East. They remind me of tangy pomegranate. I have made this pilaf of my own for years with currants, but I found the little red berries at my local Lebanese deli and thought I’d give them a whirl. The guy there told me to keep them in the fridge as they are semi-dried, but they keep for ages. They add such a yummy sourness. With the addition of a pan fried, sliced chicken breast, this pilaf makes a very satisfying meal. It is not heavy and is very healthy – barberries are crammed with vitamin C and the dish is low in fat. I have made it several times this summer. You can serve it hot, warm, cold – doesn’t matter. I hope you like it.

For a large bowl to serve 4, You will need…

 2 cups basmati rice

large pot of waterchicken/vegetable stock powder

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 teaspoons cumin

2 fresh bay leavesblack pepper

1/2 cup barberries (or currants)

1/2 cup pistachios, flaked almonds, pine nuts (or a mix)

2 medium size red onions

1/4 cup fresh parsley (flat leaf or curly)

1/4 cup fresh mint

1/4 cup fresh coriander

2 chicken breasts

salt and pepper

juice of one lime or half a lemon

olive oil


Slice the onions into thin rings or half-rings and add to a hot pan with olive oil. Turn down the heat and stir occasionally until well caramelised – this will take up to 15 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the rice…

Add stock powder, cumin, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves and ground black pepper to a large pot of water, add well rinsed Basmati rice, bring to the boil and boil until the rice is just tender – strain the rice while it is still ‘al dente’ as it will continue to cook for a while after it is strained (as it cools). Overcooked rice will wreck this dish.

Place the rice in a large, flat bowl or on a serving platter and toss through the barberries. Set aside to cool.


While the rice is cooling, toast the nuts in a dry pan over medium heat. As my funny sister in law says “I’m going to burn the pine nuts now” – whenever she cooks them! I swear at least 75% of the pine-nuts cooked in my house turn to little black nuggets and go straight to the bin. Don’t turn your back on your nuts!

You can chop them roughly or leave them whole. I don’t bother chopping except for pistachios. Set aside. Chop your herbs and set aside.


When the rice is around room-temperature, toss in onions, nuts and herbs along with some salt and pepper to taste. I like to mix it gently with my hands.

For the chicken…

Gently beat chicken breasts with a rolling pin or meat pounder on the thickest part of the breast (for even cooking), dry with paper towel, season with salt and pepper (and sumac is nice if you have some), heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the chicken breast for about 3 minutes each side (or until no longer pink in the middle). Remove to a chopping board and slice into thick slices. Toss with the lemon/lime juice and a few tablespoons of olive oil.

To serve…

Either toss the chicken breast with the lemony juices through the salad and serve from the bowl, or plate up piles of rice salad with some chicken breast on top and drizzle with lemony juices. Be sure to refrigerate promptly if you do not serve the chicken hot.

Without meat it is a nice side dish or salad.

Without meat it is a nice side dish or salad with some lemon and oil dressing.






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