Persian Chicken with Jewelled Rice & Rose Harissa Yoghurt

From Ainsley’s Good Mood Food, ITV

I love the warm and aromatic flavours of middle eastern cuisine and this subtly spiced chicken dish is perfect for the barbecue or as a summery Sunday lunch with a difference. The jewelled rice salad is a delicious and vibrant accompaniment and I’m using rice that has been pre-cooked with a pinch of saffron to add colour and a fragrant aroma, but you can use packs of pre-cooked/microwave rice if you prefer. If you don’t have any sour cherries or barberries you can use dried cranberries.


Slash the chicken in a couple of places across the breast and thighs so that the marinade can penetrate the flesh. In a bowl mix together all the ingredients for the marinade and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a large shallow dish and coat the meat in the spice mix, massaging into the skin and meat. Cover and chill to marinade for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat the barbecue or oven to 200C/180Cfan/gas 6

Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess. Drizzle with a little oil and place the chicken breast-side down over a direct heat and cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for a further 4-5 minutes then move to an indirect heat and cook with the lid down for 30-35 minutes, turning occasionally, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a sharp knife. Alternatively roast in the oven covered with foil for 30-35 minutes and then remove foil, increase the heat to 220C/200Cfan/Gas 7 and roast for a further 10-15 minutes until the skin is crispy and the juices run clear. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

In a small bowl mix together the yoghurt, rose harissa and mint. Season, if needed.

In a separate small bowl mix together the ground cinnamon, sumac, pomegranate molasses, olive oil and a squeeze of orange juice to make the salad dressing. Season with salt. Place the cooled, cooked rice in a large bowl and toss through the sour cherries, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, almonds, orange zest and chopped mint. Drizzle over the dressing and check for seasoning. Garnish with crushed rose petals, if using.

Serve the rice salad alongside the chicken and yoghurt.



  • 1 x 1.5kg chicken, backbone removed and spatchcocked
  • For the Marinade
  • 1 onion, peeled and grated or finely chopped
  • 6-8 cardamom pods, pods removed, and seeds crushed
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of saffron threads, ground in a pestle and mortar and soaked in 1 tbsp of hot water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 150g Greek yoghurt
  • juice and zest of 1 large lemon
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Jewelled Rice
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • pinch sumac
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 orange, zest and a squeeze of juice
  • 500g cooked basmati rice (pre-cooked with a small pinch of saffron and cooled)
  • 40g dried sour cherries or dried barberries (soaked for 10 minutes)
  • 30g pistachio nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 20g flaked almonds
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • large handful mint leaves, chopped
  • ½ tsp crushed edible rose petals (optional)
  • For the Rose Harissa Yoghurt
  • 150g Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp rose harissa (optional)
  • 6-8 fresh mint leaves, chopped