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The Hairy Bikers' cauliflower and chicken pilaf

The Hairy Bikers / 23 June 2016

This healthy chicken pilaf recipe from The Hairy Bikers uses cauliflower rice so it's much lower in calories than a pilaf would usually be.

The Hairy Bikers' cauliflower chicken pilaf
The Hairy Bikers' cauliflower chicken pilaf

Cooking time

30 minutes






  • 500g chicken thighs or breasts
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin crescents
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5g fresh root ginger, finely chopped
  • Large pinch of saffron
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 2 x 3cm pieces of cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 1 medium cauliflower (about 750g)
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To serve

  • 1 tbsp pistachios
  • ½ pomegranate
  • Small bunch of coriander or parsley


Everyone loves a pilaf but the rice makes it quite a high calorie dish. But if you use cauliflower instead of rice you get all that lovely comforting flavour and texture with far fewer cals. We’re happy putting in the whole spices into our pilaf and we’re used to fishing them out as we eat but if you’re worried you could wrap them in a little bit of muslin.

First prepare the chicken. If using thighs, trim off any fat, then slice them thinly. If using chicken breasts, cut them into 2cm chunks. Peel and slice the onion into thin crescents. Finely chop the garlic and ginger. Put the saffron in a bowl with a little hot water and leave it to steep.

Heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan or a shallow casserole dish. When the pan is hot, add the chicken. Fry the chicken for a minute, stirring constantly, until the pieces have seared, then add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the whole spices and the bay leaves.

Pour the stock and the saffron with its water into the pan, then season with salt and pepper. Stir vigorously, scraping up any brown bits from the base of the pan. Bring the stock to the boil, then leave to simmer while you prepare the cauliflower – this should take about 5 minutes. Cut up the cauliflower and blitz to the size of coarse breadcrumbs in a food processor – use the stalks as well as the florets.

When the liquid has reduced so it just coats the base of the pan and the chicken and onion are tender, remove the chicken and most of the onion with a slotted spoon and keep them warm. Add the cauliflower to the pan and stir so it is coated with the remaining liquid and spices – it should start to turn a light ochre in patches.

Cook over a medium heat for at least 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the cauliflower is cooked through and the remaining liquid has evaporated. The cauliflower should be fluffy. Put half the chicken and onion back into the pan and stir it through the cauliflower, then add the rest on top.

While the cauliflower is cooking, lightly crush or chop the pistachios and remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Serve the pilaf sprinkled with the pistachios, pomegranate seeds and herbs.

Visit our Indian recipes section for more curry dishes, Indian sides and desserts, including The Hairy Biker's chicken jalfrezi and lamb and spinach curry.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.