I don’t know if you’re having turkey this year? Or a goose? We are going for guinea fowl because they are so tasty, with a duck for the crisp skin. I quite like turkey but it makes a greasy stock, and a good stock is what you want for this pilaf.
Mehmet the Conqueror’s Grand Vizier used to serve this as a working lunch in divan, the council meeting held on a Friday. Into it he tossed a gold chickpea for some lucky pasha to discover (or break a tooth on): the Ottoman version of putting a sixpence in the Christmas pudding, perhaps.
Chickpeas, soaked overnight and boiled for an hour (but tinned chickpeas are pretty handy, too)
butter, salt, festive stock
Rinse the rice in cold water until the water is clear – this is to remove the starch, which would make the rice too sticky. Leave it to soak while you melt the onions in butter. When they are soft, add the chickpeas.
Drain the rice, stir it into the pan and add enough stock to cover the rice and a little more.
When the stock has all been absorbed, check the rice; it should be a little nutty, but almost edible. If necessary add a little more stock until the rice is almost done.
Now comes the strange pilaf magic: cover the pan with a cloth and a lid. Over a whisper of heat, or none, let the rice steam for fifteen minutes.
Turn the rice out into a dish, helping to fluff it out with a fork.
This rice method sounds like complicated alchemy, but it’s simple really – and it works.