Chicken kabsa, a cultural staple from Saudi Arabia. In this signature dish, rice is flavoured with whole spices, aromatic ground baharat spice blend, tomatoes and chicken stock. In my version, there are also some chickpeas added to the rice for some extra protein. The rice is served with chicken which first cooks in the onion and spice base of the kabsa rice and is then pan roasted in butter to add some colour and crispiness to the chicken. This is a beautiful dish to serve on a platter to feed guests on dinner parties or special occasions such as Eid.
How’s it hanging, readers? Long time no blogging. In fact, I do believe it’s been about six months or more. Where does time even go?! Even this post alone has taken me a good 2 weeks to finish writing up. It has been a pretty crazy couple of months to say the very least. Since my last post here, I somehow ended up getting married and starting a whole new chapter of my life. It’s been half a year of moving around between multiples cities, wedding planning, reconnecting with family, shopping
until I went half insane, drama, tears and lots of laughter.
Long term readers of this blog are probably familiar with my misadventures in ‘adulting’ and haphazardly navigating through life after university. But apparently now, I have a husband and these new responsibilities but to be quite honest, some days I just feel like I’m still a kid. Anyone else relate to the feeling??
Marriage, inherting a new family and moving has had an inevitable impact on my food habits. In the past couple of months, I’ve tasted several new foods that I’d never given much thought before, had a go at some new recipes and tested out some of my favourite recipes on a whole new crowd. But I am looking forward to how all these changes will shape future recipes I post on the blog.
Being a proper Bengali girl, I love rice – I can live off the stuff. Over almost two years, I’ve slowly amassed a small collection of rice based recipes on this blog, including pea pilau, chicken pilau, lamb/mutton pilau, tandoori chicken biryani and mutton biryani. I also have a non Indian recipe for Mujadarra (rice pilaf with green lentils). This recipe for chicken kabsa has quickly become one of my new favourite rice recipes.
I love the aroma of the baharat spice blend and the additon of tomato which combined together, sets it apart from the traditonal pilaus I’m used to. Baharat is a spice mixture used in Middle Eastern cooking with typical ingredients including allspice, black peppercorns, cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, cumin, coriander seeds and paprika. I’ve tried this same recipe using ras el hanout (a North African spice blend) instead of baharat and I also really liked it. Baharat can be compared to similar Indian spice blends such as garam masala, and if in a pinch, you can’t get your hands on a ready prepared baharat spice blend and you don’t fancy making your own, then I think you should be able to just use garam masala instead and have equally tasty results.
I used a baharat blend from Spice Kitchen, who I’ve talked about a few times on the blog. They produce amazingly aromatic and fresh spice blends using high quality ingredients.
The other great thing about this recipe is that the chicken is first cooked in the onion and tomato mixture and the stock produced from the chicken, cooking liquid and spices creates a delicious stock that adds a depth of flavour to the rice. I’ve tried making the rice on its own without this chicken stock and whilst it was tasty it just wasn’t as good as when you add the chicken stock.
The only tricky thing about this dish is getting the water to rice ratio right. I almost rigidly stick by a ratio of 1.5 cups of water for every cup of rice. As you add water to the onion mixture early on to allow the chicken to cook make sure you don’t add too much water later on or you will end up with slightly softer rice so try to stick to the proportions stated in the recipe.
I’ve gotten into the habit of finishing off my rice pilafs by breaking up a dollop of butter over the top of the rice and let it melt in. It’s not necessary but it totally adds to the yumminess factor. I also garnished the dish with toasted almonds and golden sultanas. I know that fruit and nuts to rice can be a controversial matter -I personally think it makes a dish look more special – but if you’re not such a fan, you can easily leave it out and save yourself a couple of extra minutes.
I tried a version of lamb kabsa at a local Arab restaurant a few weeks ago and I have to admit, I much preferred my own chicken kabsa which had a much greater depth of flavour and spices. This is an aromatic and filling dish that is great to serve to guests as it differs enough from pilaus and biryanis to be exciting and new without you worrying that it might be too experimental, so give it a go, guys.
- 1 kg whole chicken, skin off, cut into 4 pieces
- 4-6 tbsp oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch ginger
- 2 medium onions sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cassia bark stick, snapped into pieces
- 3 green cardamoms
- 6 cloves
- 2 tsp baharat
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp sumac or 1tsp lemon juice
- 3 salad tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1.5 cups rice, washed, soaked for 15 mins and drained
- 3 cups water (+ 1/2 cup to let chicken cook)
- 1 tin chickpeas, drained
- 3 green chillies
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp butter (for the rice) + 1 tbsp butter to brown chicken
- 1tsp ground black pepper
- 1-2 tsp oil
- Handful of flaked almonds
- Handful of golden sultanas
- Add 4-6 tbsp oil to a deep pan, allow the oil to heat up and then add garlic. Allow the garlic to turn golden then add ginger and onions. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt and whole spices. Cover and leave the onions to soften
- Once the onions have softened down, add the ground spices. Cook the ground spice off for about 2-3 minutes then add tomatoes and tomato purée.
- Let the tomatoes soften for 2-3 minutes then add in the chicken. Sear on both sides for 5 mins then add about 1/2 cup water. Cover and leave chicken to cook for about 20 mins, checking every few minutes to make sure the onions are not burning. If the onion base is too dry, add a few tablespoons of water at a time, just enough to allow the chicken to cook through.
- Once the chicken is cooked through and softened, remove from the pan and reserve on the side. To the pan, add 1 tsp salt, black pepper, the chickpeas and drained rice. Turn the heat up high and leave to cook with lid on for about 15 mins until the water is absorbed.
- Once water has been absorbed, gently mix the rice from top to bottom using a large flat spoon or spatula. Check salt to taste and add as necessary. Take 1 tbsp butter and break it up over the top of the rice and leave to melt into the rice with the lid on. Turn the heat off and leave the rice to rest for 5-10 minutes whilst you finish off the chicken and prepare the garnish.
- To finish the chicken, add 1 tbsp butter to a frying pan and add the reserved chicken. Allow the chicken to shallow fry for 2-5 minutes until it is lightly browned on both sides. Once browned to liking, remove from heat.
- To prepare the garnish, add 1-2 tsp oil to a frying pan. Add the flaked almonds and gently toast until the almonds are golden brown on both sides, being careful not to let them burn and turn black. Once toasted, remove and reserve to the side. Then add the golden sultanas and fry until the sultanas become plump. Remove from heat and reserve the sultanas.
- To serve the dish, place the rice on a large plate or platter and then place the cooked chicken on top. Scatter the almonds and sultanas on top of the rice and chicken and serve.
- I used a standard coffee mug to measure the rice and water.
- It doesn't matter if you use a slightly smaller cup, such as the measuring cup used for baking as long as you stick to the general ratio of 1.5 cups water for every 1 cup of rice.