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Rice pilaf with Arbroath smokies

Wed, 30 January, 2019

Arbroath smokie is a small smoked whole haddock from Scotland. Pilaf is a method of cooking rice on the hob, with spices. Together they sing.

smoked fish pilaf

The smokies

I have sung the praise of Arbroath smokies previously, the whole small haddock fish smoked in Scotland over smoking pits. They are smoked and sold whole, and look very inconspicuous with brown, leathery skin, threaded in twos on a piece of string.

The best way to approach them is to open the fish like a book and peel chunks of flesh off the skin and, hopefully, off the bone. Some small bones will cling to the flakes so you need to take care when eating, but that's the beauty of whole smoked fish. Think of all the healthy omega-acids it contains instead.

If you can’t get Arbroath smokies where you live, don’t lose heart: any other flaky smoked fish will do too in this dish.

arbroath smokie with rice

The pilaf

Pilaf is the way of cooking rice initially in a little hot oil before it is boiled in stock or plain water. It makes the rice super-fluffy when it's cooked and fragrant with whatever aromatics have been sizzling in the oil before rice grains were added.

And anyway everything always tastes better when it’s seared, browned, fried or scorched before being dunked in water.

rice pilaf with arbroath smokie

Arbroath smokie rice pilaf

The dish is a cross between pilaf, kedgeree and ‘rice with things’. I add the dried fruit for the whiff of Middle Eastern flavours, the cayenne and peppercorns to heat up the rice and the dill, frankly, for the colour.

It works really well; quite incredible how well the smoked fish teams up with sweetish flavours. But it can also be a play by ear kind of recipe and adapted to the flavours you fancy and what is available in your fridge.

Rice pilaf with Arbroath smokies

Servings: 2Time: 45 minutes


  • For the pilaf:
  • 200g (1 heaping cup) white long grain rice
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 300g (1¼ cup) vegetable or fish stock
  • a pinch of saffron, ground in pestle and mortar
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a pinch of cayenne
  • For the smoked fish mix:
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 large white onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp. dried cranberries (or barberries if available)
  • 2 tbsp. golden sultanas
  • 2 tbsp. flaked almonds
  • ½ bunch of dill, finely chopped
  • 1 Arbroath smokie


1. Rinse the rice a few times until the water runs clear. Drain and shake off the moisture.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Add the saffron to the stock and bring it to a simmer in a separate pan. Taste for saltiness; it needs to be quite salty as the rice will draw the seasoning from it.

3. Add the rice to the oil and cook it over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring, until it is well coated in oil and starts to colour in places.

4. Pour in the hot stock, add the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, bay and cayenne, give it a stir and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, then turn it down to minimum and set a timer for 15 minutes. Don’t take the lid off while the rice is cooking.

cooking rice pilaf

5. When the rice has been cooking for 15 minutes, take it off the hob and place on a wet dish cloth for 10 minutes. Do not lift the lid.

6. While the rice is cooking and/or resting, melt the butter in another pan and add the sliced onions. Cook them for 10 minutes until soft. Add the cranberries, sultanas and almonds and cook gently, stirring once or twice, for another couple of minutes.

7. Pull the skin off the smokie and flake it into chunks. Take care to remove the bones though it’s hard to pick them all out so be careful when eating too. Add the fish to the onion mix and stir gently in.

preparing smoked fish salad

8. Take the lid off the rice and fluff it up with a fork. If there’s still some liquid in it, cover it with a clean tea towel weighted by the lid for a couple of minutes so it steams off.

smoked haddock rice dish

9. Stir most of the dill into the rice. Add the fish and onion mix and toss it gently together. Finish with the remaining dill and serve with a green salad.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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