As their caravans travelled from one place to another throughout the Middle East, new spices and ingredients got incorporated into recipes. That is why there are so many different versions of the Kabsa Spice mix or Baharat. Baharat means a mixture of spices in Arabic. This mixture is used to season meat and breads, and even used as a condiment at times.
Some recipes add saffron to the Kabsa spice mix, others use dried mint or rosebuds and in Arab States of Persian Gulf even black lime or dried pomegranate seeds are used to add a touch of sour.
Kabsa rice are quite similar to the South Asian pulao and might actually be the dish that evolved into pulao later on when Muslim conquerors reached Indian subcontinent.
Tomatoes are a prominent and essential ingredient in chicken Kabsa. The meat is cooked in many different ways before its added to the rice; either it is grilled or cooked under hot ashes or stewed. The rice are cooked in a meat, onion, tomato and spice broth. The two (meat and rice) are mixed in the serving platter and topped with dried fruits and nuts.
I cook Kabsa rice as a one pot convenient family meal. Rather than cooking chicken separately, I cook it in the onion and tomato stew, then scoop it out and grill or broil it, while using the same stew to cook the rice. These rice are not spicy as in “hot” but spicy as in “fragrant” and “flavourful” . That’s why it makes this dish a perfect and wholesome meal even for kids. And they look gorgeous enough to become the centrepiece for any festive table.
You don’t even have to cook a side dish to serve with these rice as there is a lot going on, flavour wise,for this simple dish. May be just some yogurt or a fresh salad is all what you need.
For Kabsa Rice:
4 cups long grain basmati rice
1 large onion, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup olive or sunflower oil
Salt to taste
1 cup mixed nuts and raisins
For Baharat(Spice Mix):
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 dried red chilli peppers or 1 teaspoon paprika
This Is What You Do:
Blend tomatoes in an electric blender to make a chunky puree.
Rinse and soak the rice.
Heat oil in a deep pan on medium heat. Fry onions till golden brown.
Add chicken and fry till golden on the outside. Add ginger, garlic and all the spice blend. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add tomato puree, add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat and cover the pan. Let chicken cook for 10-12 minutes or till done.
Remove chicken pieces from the tomato broth and set aside.
Add 3-4 teaspoons more salt and rice. Add enough water to come up an inch over the surface of rice. Cook covered on medium low heat till all the liquid is absorbed and the rice are done and fluffy.
Meanwhile, place the chicken pieces in an oven proof plate or bowl. Put it under the broiler for 3-4 minutes or till its charred or if your oven doesn’t have a broiler then bake uncovered for 8-10 minutes or till the chicken looks grilled on the outside.
Fry the nuts and raisins in very little oil.
To serve, dish out the rice in a big platter. Top them with chicken pieces , fried nuts and raisins.
Serve hot with yogurt.