persian-style pilaf with chickpeas, mint & harissa recipe

I'm finding it a little hard to believe we are in 2011 already. It only feels like yesterday I was welcoming my first born into the world... and now she will be turning 5 this year!
People are forever going on about how fast kids grow up. I now understand what they were talking about. However, I do remember in those first few torturous months when sleep was but a distant memory, having thoughts of it lasting forever.There was definitely a little bit lot of,

What have I signed myself up for? Am I ever going to sleep again. Or function normally for that matter?

And then bam, Ada's nearing 5 and Kye 3. We have adapted to the sleep deprivation and I now wear my black ringed eyes with pride. My babies are growing up... fast.
This coming year has got a few little and not so little treats in store for us (more on those in the coming weeks) but for now we are lapping up the sun (that finally reappeared), paddle boarding lots, and eating loads of simple, fresh summer food. Yep, summer is here. Nau mai, haere mai 2011.

This persian-style pilaf is my version of a harissa chicken rice salad featured in the latest issue of Cuisine magazine. It's simple, full of flavour and would be just perfect to take to a summer barbecue. The recipe gets you to make your own harissa paste. Dead simple, but if you are short on time, a good store-brought harissa could be used in place. The flavours will be slightly different from mine here, but I'd bet they will still be good.
I had a pot of cooked chickpeas that I was using to make hummus, so I just nicked a cup full of those to add. You can use soaked, cooked chickpeas too, or save on time by using a tin of chickpeas. Rinsed and drained well.

I found as I ate the leftovers straight from the fridge the next day, that it keeps well. I just added a little more fresh herbs and dressing to freshen things up a little.
With that in mind, if you were wanting to plan ahead this could be made a day in advance, to the end of the rice cooking stage. Cool and store. Then to serve, bring back to room temperature, toss through the almonds, herbs and dressing. Too easy.

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season (in the sun and the snow!). I have a feeling 2011 is going to be a good one, don't you agree? Xx -emm

persian-style pilaf with chickpeas, mint & harissa recipe
This pilaf can be served hot, warm or at room temperature. A little crumbling of feta on top would be lovely if you eat dairy. The harissa recipe below makes way more than you will need, about a cup in total. You can store the remaining harissa in the fridge, covered with a thin film of olive oil for 5-7 days. Use it to flavour quinoa, smear on tofu and grill or add to anything that needs a little extra flavour boost. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small pan over medium heat, until fragrant, then grind in a mortar and pestle. I'm sure you could get away with using 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon if you don't have sticks. Serves 3-4. 

harissa paste

  • 1 red capsicum
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted then ground
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted then ground
  • 2 large red chillies (or 1 tsp chilli powder), finely chopped seeds and all
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Roast the capsicum in a preheated oven at 220 C/425 F or over a gas flame until the skin starts to blacken, approx 10 minutes, turning once during cooking. Remove from the oven and set aside with a tea towel draped over. When cool, peel off the skin and remove seeds. Place the roasted capsicum into a food processor with the onion, garlic, spices and chilli. Pulse until smooth, then add the lemon juice. Drizzle in a little olive oil with the motor running until a paste forms. Season with salt and pepper. If you are making ahead of time, spoon into a jar and cover with a thin film of olive oil. Store in the fridge until needed.


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 cup (180g) basmati rice, rinsed under cold water and drained well
  • 1 3/4 cups (435ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (40g) currants (raisins or sultanas can be used also)
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • the juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (or use a 390g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained well)
  • 3/4 cup (70g) slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed torn mint leaves
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons of harissa paste (see above or use store-brought)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions until golden and soft. Add the ginger and allspice. Cook for a further 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat in the onion mixture. Reduce the heat to low, add the currants, water and cinnamon stick. Cover with a lid and cook slowly for 20-25mins until rice is cooked.

Mix harissa paste with the juice of 1/2-1 lemon and the extra virgin olive oil. Spoon pilaf into a serving bowl and drizzle with harissa dressing, scatter with extra herbs and enjoy!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    January 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Emm.. This looks amazing and healthy as usual. I love chick peas. I am envious that it is summer there. Enjoy and get some sleep. It was only yesterday that my daughter was 5 now she is 24!!! Every season with kids is enjoyable and dif. Happy New Year. B:)

  • Reply
    January 4, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Happy New Year Emma! Your post makes me dream of summer days…

  • Reply
    January 5, 2011 at 1:04 am

    Happy new years too you lovely ladies ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    January 5, 2011 at 5:43 am

    I just found this on, read it out to my husband, and he insisted he cook it for dinner tomorrow night – thanks for dinner! It sounds beautiful, and I'm sure it will be.

    I've got a 6yo and a 4yo, and can empathise with tiredness and the need for simple, fresh food – I'll be back here, no doubt!

    Happy New Year from Canberra, Australia (I've only just found your blog, no idea where you are!) ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    January 5, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Hi there, you are totally welcome! Happy new year to you too, from Raglan, New Zealand ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    January 5, 2011 at 9:42 am

    This looks delicious and healty…

  • Reply
    Medifast Coupon
    January 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    This is quite the healthy recipe. Good to see an easy but flavour filled colourful dish!

  • Reply
    January 6, 2011 at 9:18 am

    he cooked it, and it was wonderful ๐Ÿ™‚ The harissa was gorgeous, just the right mix of lemon and spice. We substituted prunes for currants as we'd run out… but it was great anyway! I could have cheerfully drank the harissa on it's own as a sort of gazpacho, lol! Thanks for this recipe!

  • Reply
    January 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    You're totally welcome ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad to hear you liked it as much as I did.

  • Reply
    January 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Ooooh waw, what a beautiful & stylish tasty dish!

    I love every flavour in here!! Yummie food, great for entertaining!!

    I just moved my blog from blogspot to
    If you want to come over @ my blog & udate your RSS. So that you will recieve new updates! I hope you will like it! I added your blog to my blogroll again!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Great thanks for the update Sophie ๐Ÿ™‚ I just did the opposite and swapped from wordpress to blogger a few months ago!

  • Reply
    Sunburnt Aussie in Saigon
    January 14, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Can't wait to try this. Definately cooking this for dinner over the weekend. Thanks!!

  • Reply
    Jennรฉ @ Sweet Potato Soul
    January 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I'm certainly going to try this recipe, it looks lovely. Also, beautiful pictures!

  • Reply
    Julie :)
    February 2, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Hello again! Sorry for spamming your blog, but i feel the need to keep telling you when i've tried one of your recipes. I made this last night (been thinking about it for ageees!) and it was SSOOO YUMMY. That sauce was delicious, and like the person who posted above, i too just kept eating the sauce out of the bowl hehe. So easy to make, good use of ingredients and it DOES taste good warm or cold. YUM x 100

  • Reply
    February 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Hehe, Julie you don't need to apologize! It's great hearing back from people who have tried out my recipes. I'm so stoked you are trying out so many of them, and loving them ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    February 6, 2011 at 6:11 am

    DIVINE!!! After making your Blueberry and Almond muffins, I thought I'd give this a go for dinner (very productive day in the kitchen today!) and I was not disappointed. Can't wait to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

    Thanks once again for the yummy recipes, can't wait to try more from your blog.

  • Reply
    This American Bite
    July 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I loved this one too and have alsoincluded it in my June Recipe Roundup at This American Bite. You got a double feature!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2013 at 4:29 am

    cant wait to try this, though i was wondering whats your take on store bought harrisa (dry powder, not paste) and if i were to sub that how much should i use?

    • Reply
      September 5, 2013 at 5:09 am

      I'm sorry I've never used store-bough harissa before, and never seen powdered harissa?! You're best bet is to add to taste.

  • Reply
    August 9, 2014 at 4:56 am


    Just cooking this now – at what point do I add the chickpeas? I'm assuming at the end when the rice is cooked?


    • Reply
      August 9, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Hi! Oops! That's a super old typo which no one else has picked up on! Yes, just add the cooked chickpeas at the end once the rice is cooked. If you want you can pop the lid back on and leave it on the heat a further minute or so to warm through.

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 2:03 am

    I'll try it for my tomorrow dinner for sure. Thanks.

  • Leave a Reply