Cheats Harissa Cauliflower Pilaf

One of my lovely friends got me a Good Food Magazine subscription for Christmas. Now I have a terrible habit of absolutely loving reading recipe books and magazines, but never actually making anything out of them as I tend to just go off and do my own thing so I decided that I would try and make a least one thing out of each monthly edition. The January edition was full of tray bakes and, having had a read through the mag, I decided the Harissa Cauliflower Pilaf was the most up my street. Now whilst I committed to making something out of the edition, I knew it wouldn’t be too the letter and so, having made this a few times now, I can confirm my version is actually rather different to the original.

Firstly, pilafs are usually cooked in the oven. Having tested this method I’ve concluded its too fiddly, too much effort and there is no guarantee the rice will actually be cooked in the time it should be. Secondly, I tweaked (read changed!) the ingredients more to my taste and to make it more WW friendly. I also added chicken to the recipe but this is an optional addition as you will see in the method below and the dish really is just as good without (especially it if you are all about getting those meat free days in).

If you aren’t usually a fan of cauliflower, I would urge you to give this one a go. I don’t like boiled cauliflower at all, but roasted it has the most delightful texture and nutty flavour. The cauliflower leaves are also delicious believe it or not!

The way I’ve made this dish makes it far more straight forward to cook and keeps everything a little more moist and juicy. It’s a lovely addition to any weekly meal plan and makes four big portions so is perfect for left overs the next day.

Be sure to read the method to the end before you make it to be sure everything is on the go.

Cheats Harissa Cauliflower Pilaf

Serves 4

With chicken – Blue and Purple 11sp per serving Green 12sp per serving

Without chicken – Blue, Purple and Green 11sp per serving


2 tbsp harissa spice mix (not the paste)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large cauliflower, broken into medium sized florets, small leaves kept while and large leaves roughly chopped

1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced

2 lemons

1 tsp sugar

200g basmati rice

Small pinch of saffron (optional)

2 bay leaves

1 litre stock (made up with 2 stock cubes, either chicken or vegetable)

60g sultanas

40g toasted flaked almonds

Small bunch of coriander

Small tub of pomegranate seeds

400g raw chicken breasts (optional – see method)

Additional optional serving suggestions (but gooooood!)

Fat Free Greek Yoghurt

Sprinkle of Sumac and crushed chillies


Heat the oven to 200c. Whisk 1 tbsp of the harissa spice with the garlic, olive oil and 1 tbsp water in a large bowl.  Add the cauliflower florets and leaves and toss to coat. Tip into a roasting tin, spread evenly and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked to your liking (I like it so it’s still al dente).

Meanwhile take a small bowl and add the juice of 1 lemon, the sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the red onion and toss in the juice. Pop to one side to pickle whilst you make the rest of the dish.

If you are having chicken with the dish, take the chicken breasts, flatten with a meat mallet or rolling pin until they are around 2 cm thick, sprinkle with harissa spice, salt and pepper and fry in a frying pan with 1kal until cooked through (this should take around 15-17 minutes). Remove from the pan once cooked through and slice.

Add the basmati rice to a large sauce pan with 1 tsp salt, the saffron, bay leaves, stock and 1 tbsp harissa spice. Boil the rice until it is cooked through but still has a bite (mine took around 15 minutes). Once cooked, drain the rice and add to a large mixing bowl with the sultanas, roasted cauliflower and most of the almonds, pomegranate seeds and coriander (reserve a little to dress). Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, season to taste and stir.

Pour the rice mixture into a large serving dish (or into your individual plates/portions) and finish with the remaining almonds, coriander and pomegranate seeds as well as the pickled red onion. Top with the remaining half a lemon cut into 4 wedges.

Finish with a few dollops of yoghurt and a sprinkle of crushed chillies and sumac.


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3 thoughts on “Cheats Harissa Cauliflower Pilaf

  1. Anna says:

    Just made this and it was absolutely delicious, The different textures, flavours and levels of heat really do make it a special meal. Laura you are so clever coming up with the amazing recipes that you do, I cook from your website EVERY day! Crab & chorizo orzo tomorrow night which is a new favourite in my house.

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