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Chicken pilaf – how to cook?

Toyuq plov - chicken pilaf
Chicken pilaf is one of the many versions of pilaf popular in Azerbaijan.

There are different ways of preparing chicken with rice pilaf in Azerbaijan. We give below a recipe in which the chicken is steamed together with the rice.

Preparation time: 60 min
Cooking time: 40-45 min
Serves: 6-7


  • 1 whole chicken (1.3-1.5 kg/2.87-3.31 lb)
  • 300 g/12 oz raisins
  • 3 medium onions
  • Butter or oil (but not olive oil)
  • 1 tbspn allspice
  • juice of half a lemon
  • turmeric
  • 1 kg/2.2 lb basmati rice
  • 2-3 threads saffron
  • For the qazmaq-crust
  • 1 egg and 1-2 tbspns yoghurt
  • OR 200 g/8oz plain flour
  • OR 2 medium-sized potatoes


  • Rinse the chicken and place in a plan. Add water to cover the chicken completely and salt. Bring to the boil, skim off the scum that forms on top of the water, add 1 tablespoon of allspice and lemon juice, cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is half cooked (about 20 minutes). Do not let the chicken cook completely or it will be overcooked in the finished dish.
  • Chop the onion and fry until golden.
  • Soak the raisins in boiling water for 2 minutes then dry.
  • Add the chopped raisins to the onion.
  • Once the chicken is half-cooked, remove it from the pan and leave to cool. The bouillon can be used to make soup the next day.
  • Remove the ends of the wings from the cooled chicken (or remove them before cooking). Stuff the chicken's cavity with the raisins and onion. Rub turmeric into the chicken (it gives the chicken an attractive yellow colour) and cover the chicken with a fine tea cloth to prevent the rice from sticking to it. Set aside.
  • Rinse the rice in cold water.
  • Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse.
  • Fill a large, heavy saucepan with water and add salt. Bring to the boil. Add the rice to the boiling water. Turn the heat down slightly but cook at a rapid boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to cook for too long or the finished rice will be sticky. To see if the rice is ready, take a couple of grains out of the pot and test them on your wet finger. The grain should be soft on the outside but still firm on the inside. When you bite into the grain or break it with a finger nail, the hard white interior should still be visible. Strain the rice through a rice colander.
  • Prepare the crust or qazmaq: 3 varieties are given here. a) Mix together 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of the parboiled rice and 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt. Add some of the infused saffron water or a pinch of turmeric. OR b) For lavash qazmaq, make lavash by mixing together 1 glass (200 g/8 oz) of flour and a little water and butter. (Add 1 egg to the dough if you want an eggy flavour to the qazmaq.) Knead the dough until it is soft and roll out to a thickness of  3mm/0.2 inches. OR c) For potato qazmaq, peel and slice the potatoes widthways.
  • Rinse and dry the rice pan. Return it to the heat and melt a generous knob of butter. Spread the qazmaq mixture, lavash or potato rounds over the bottom of the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Put a 2-2.5 cm/0.8-1 inch layer of the parboiled rice on top of the qazmag. Spoon it gently into the pan to avoid breaking the grains. Place the chicken covered with a cloth on top of the rice and cover with the remaining rice.
  • Put several knobs of butter on top and add ¼ glass of boiled water. This helps the chicken to steam. Make holes in the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow the steam to escape. Place a well-fitting lid on top of the saucepan, covered underneath with a clean tea towel. The towel helps to absorb the steam. Once the rice is steaming, turn down the heat and leave to continue steaming for about 45 minutes.
  • When the dish is ready, remove the rice from on top of and around the chicken. Place on a serving dish and add the saffron infusion. Take out the chicken and remove the cloth. The chicken can be taken whole to the table on a separate dish or on top of the rice.Alternatively, remove the stuffing from the chicken and serve in a separate dish. Cut the chicken into parts to make it easier to serve individual portions and serve in a separate dish or on top of the rice.
  • Usually the rice underneath the chicken is not served to guests, but this can be the tastiest part because it has absorbed all the chicken juice.

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