Chicken and cauliflower pilaf with saffron and almonds

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Cauliflower rice. A very finely chopped, rice-like way of preparing cauliflower and one of the many food-stuffs being bandied around Instagram with an invisible ‘carbs are evil’ hashtag lately. See also courgetti. But like quality gin and proper burgers before it, wouldn’t it be a shame for another perfectly good thing to be ruined just because it’s so heavily lauded by wankers on the internet? You enjoy that gin fizz and American cheese covered beef patty! Just don’t bleat on about it like what you’re filling your face with makes a statement about your place in the world.

So cauliflower rice, anyway – I’m into it. It’s a nice alternative to roasting, cheesing and currying the bastard when you’ve tired of those options. And I really like a baked rice dish, where a load of flavours can quietly brew to create something aromatic and and satisfying that you can eat with a spoon, and cauliflower makes for a nice change from basmati. Variety is the spice of life, and all that.

The star of this dish is saffron, with a nice bit of earthiness from cumin and sweetness from shallots, while the chicken that bakes in with it gives a rich meatiness that something bland like cauliflower needs. You could make a vegetarian version that’d be just as good though. Maybe throw in some thyme and an extra bay leaf to replace the chicken’s savoury vibes. You could also, of course, mix actual rice in with the cauliflower rice, but I quite like how light it is with just the cauliflower.

There’s actually not a lot to this dish, so it’s a good one to knock up when you can’t be arsed, but still want something nice.

Ingredients (serves 2)

One head of cauliflower
A handful of raw almonds, roughly chopped
5-6 small shallots
A teaspoon of saffron strands
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 bay leaf
A small bunch of parsley
A lemon
4 chicken thighs
Olive oil
A small nob of butter


On the hob, heat a little olive oil in a lidded casserole dish that can go in the oven. Season the chicken thighs and then place them skin-side down in the dish. Fry for 5-10mins on a med heat to colour with the lid on the prevent the oil spitting out.

Meanwhile, finely chop the cauliflower to a rough rice consistency. I’ve head little success with using a blender – it just gets stuck, but give it a go if you’re blender’s not shit. Set aside.

Finely chop the shallots. Revove the chicken thighs from the pan and set aside, then sautee the shallots in the chickeney fat for 5-10mins until beginning to golden.

Add the almonds, bay leaf and cumin and fry for a further couple of mins.

Add the cauliflower, butter, saffron strands and around 200mls (a wine glass, ish) of water and stir well.

Place the chicken thighs, skin side up, on top of the cauliflower and put the lid on the dish.

Stick it in the oven for 35mins at 200c until the chicken is cooked through.

When cooked, remove the chicken, shred it off the bone and set aside.

Finely chop the parsley and stir through the cauliflower with the juice of the lemon.

Serve in bowls with the shredded chicken on top.

*DISCLAMER: yeah yeah, I Instagrammed it, but only to share this excellent recipe.


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