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North African Rice Pilaf from Claire’s Apothecary Cabinet

North African Rice Pilaf from Claire’s Apothecary Cabinet

Outlander on Starz

To survive in the 1700s, it was vital ye had knowledge of the local plants and herbs. Some were as deadly as they were beautiful, and only a skilled healer could use them. In Claire’s Apothecary Cabinet you’ll find 14 different plants that were used to treat everything from warts and corns to heart attacks and infection. If you learned them well, you were invaluable to your clan.

(From Claire’s Apothecary Cabinet on

Claire's Apothecary Cabinet Starz
Those of you who count themselves among the well-informed obsessed fans counting down the days to the television premiere of Outlander will already be familiar with STARZ’s newest web destination, Claire’s Apothecary Cabinet.

If you haven’t had a chance to explore it yet, you’re missing out on some fun! Inside, you’ll find 14 different plants that were used to treat everything from warts and corns to heart attacks and infection in the centuries prior to the advent modern medicine.

Fennel - North African Rice Pilaf

Amongst Claire’s collection of medicinal herbs, you’ll find a number that are also at home in the kitchen. Fennel, turmeric, garlic and peppermint found their way into this week’s recipe on Outlander Kitchen, and if I had access to ramsons (wild garlic) and comfrey leaves, I would have thrown those into my Dutch oven along with the others.

In addition to physicians, 17th Century cooks knew the health benefits of many of the herbs they used regularly. Fennel as a digestive aid, peppermint as an anti-nauseant, garlic as an immune booster; the list goes on and on.

Remember Aloysius O’Shaughnessy Murphy from Voyager? He was one cantankerous ship’s cook, but he also went to great lengths to soothe Jamie’s seasickness with his Beef Broth. The caraway seeds in his bouquet garnii are said to calm an angry tummy.

My inspiration for this week’s recipe came, as it often does, from an online conversation I had with my friend (and huge Outlander fan) Lori of Little White Apron. She passed on a recipe she found for Tunisian Steamed Rice, and I immediately knew it was perfect for this post.

Well, almost perfect.  I tweaked the original recipe quite a bit, substituting a few of the spices and changing the cooking method significantly. Et voilà! This North African Rice Pilaf from Claire’s Apothecary Cabinet was born.


Fresh garlic plays an important part in this dish, and I was thrilled to use the garlic out of my very own garden, which I pulled from the soil a mere 3 days before I prepared the recipe.

Speaking of freshness, make sure even the dried spices you keep in your cupboard are relatively fresh. If you can’t remember how long a certain bottle has been there, it’s probably best to replace it with a new one. Years-old spices can go rancid and impart a bitter taste to your finished dish.

Whole spices keep better than ground ones. I keep cumin, coriander, fennel (to name a few) as seeds and roast in small batches as needed in a small cast iron pan over low heat, then grind them in the second coffee grinder I keep solely for spices.

(To clean the grinder between batches, pulse a tablespoon of uncooked rice 5 or 6 times, then wipe out the residue.)

North African Rice Pilaf

Please don’t let the long list of ingredients for this recipe intimidate you. After the 20 minutes of required prep is done and you’ve got it all in the pot, sit back, relax and ask your honey to mix some drinks or decant the wine.  Dinner will be ready in under an hour.

(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

North African Rice Pilaf

: Generously infused with spices, this pilaf makes a flavour-filled, one-pot dinner. Leftovers reheat beautifully and cleanup is a breeze.

Serves 4 to 6

  • Olive Oil – ¼ Cup
  • Cured Chorizo Sausage (Spanish), chopped – 1 Cup
  • Onion, chopped – 1 Cup
  • Fennel Bulb, chopped – ½ Cup
  • White Basmati Rice – 1½ Cups (see notes)
  • Tomato, chopped – ½ Cup
  • Tomato Paste – 2 Tble
  • Garlic, grated or minced – 4 large cloves
  • Ground Coriander – 1 Tble
  • Smoked or Sweet Paprika – 1 Tble
  • Ground Fennel – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Ground Turmeric – 1 tsp
  • Chili Flakes – ½ tsp
  • Chicken Stock or Water – 3 Cups
  • Fresh Spinach, chopped – 1 bunch (4 Cups)
  • Flat Leaf Parsley, large stems removed and chopped – 1 Cup
  • Cooked Chickpeas – 1 Cup
  • Mint, chopped – ½ Cup – for garnish
  • Preserved Lemon, minced – 1 Tble – for garnish (see notes)

Read the recipe through at least once and prepare the ingredients before you begin.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium until shimmering. Add chorizo and fry until crisp, 3-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add onions and chopped fennel to oil and sweat until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Mix in rice, chopped tomato, tomato paste, garlic and spices. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add stock or water, spinach, parsley, chickpeas and reserved chorizo. Stir well, increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. When boiling, stir well, cover with lid and reduce heat to low.

Cook until rice is tender, 35-45 minutes. Stir well, spoon into bowls and serve hot, garnished with plenty of mint and a bit of preserved lemon.


  • Make this dish vegetarian by omitting the chorizo. Easy peasy.
  • Basmati is the best choice, but any long grain rice will do. I used 1 cup white basmati and ½ cup brown, which kept it light tasting, with just a hint of nuttiness. If you decide to mix in brown, increase the cooking time to 45-55 minutes. Avoid using all brown, which will make the dish heavy tasting.
  • Preserved lemon is a traditional condiment in North African cuisine. It is available in specialty gourmet markets, or is easily made at home in about 6 weeks. Find the recipe online, or in my e-cookbooklet, SLOW EATS, FAST – Condiments. Substitute lemon zest in a pinch.


  1. Kate
    July 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    As I’m reading this recipe, in my imagination I can smell the aromatics and it’s heaven! I can’t wait to try this one

  2. Anne-Marie
    December 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Theresa! I just wanted you to know I tried this recipe last night and it was DELICIOUS. I had all the ingredients on hand in my kitchen except chorizo and fennel bulb, so I substituted bacon and celery for these. Definitely a keeper.

    • Theresa
      December 4, 2014 at 6:48 am

      Great to hear!

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