Janny de Moor Janny de Moor

Istanbul Pilaf


Serves two:


  • 2 chicken legs
  • 250 g cleaned carrots
  • 150 g peeled waxy potatoes
  • 1 peeled onion
  • pepper, salt
  • 750 ml boiling water
  • 100 g basmati rice
  • 4 tbsp cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp butter



  • Turkish grilled red paprika
  • dill branches

Street food is popular everywhere, but never as varied as in Istanbul. While strolling along you can gather a delicious meal over there. According to Orhan Pamuk in his  novel A strangeness of my mind (2014) people believed that food tasted better with a bit of dirt in it.

The novel’s central figure Mevlut Karataş, hawks boza, a beverage made of fermented wheat in the evening. In daytime he sells pilaf with chickpeas and chicken from a wonderful cart, such as you can see everywhere in the old city. His wife cooked the food and when something was left it was just heated again for the following day.

How nice it would have been if I had read this history of the town before I myself stayed in one of the dashing streets, so wonderfully exposed in the TV series Mordkommission Istanbul. Of course our author does not give a recipe for Pirinç pilavi nohutlu but you can find that in almost every Turkish cookbook. Without the chickpeas it was even served at the court of the Sultans, writes my friend Nevin Halici in From “Sini”to the tray (1999).

  • Put the chicken legs with the whole vegetables, pepper and salt in a wide pan. Add the boiling water, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
  • Rinse the rice under warm water until the water is clear. Leave to stay in hot water for 5 minutes.
  • Bring 250 ml of the chicken stock to the boil in a small pan. Scatter the rice into it. Cover as soon as the stock is boiling again and simmer about 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Mix with chickpeas and butter.
  • Brown the legs under a glowing grill, put on top of the rice. Arrange the paprika all around, garnish with dill.


Menu suggestion


  • First course: carrot soup. Purée carrots, potatoes and onion with a hand mixer or blender with the left over stock. Ladle warm into plates with some chopped parsley and some molten butter mixed with some mild paprika powder on top.
  • Dessert: Turkish yoghurt with a dollop cherry jam.

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