Pilav

15. Bahrain: Chicken Machboos

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Bahrain is know as the island of one million palmtrees, ancient sights lead the eye to the modern skyline filled with skyscrapers nowadays. It is a land of contrast. The name Bahrain comes means 2 water probably because the sea around Bahrain is so special, fresh water bubbles up from underground springs straight into the sea. A lot of ancient legendes are about the mysterious water springs.

and the first country in the Middle East to discover oil in 1932.

Here are some more facts about Bahrain:

  • Many people believe that Bahrain is the Garden of Eden from the Bible (You know the place where Adam & Eve lived)
  • Four-fifths of the population lives in cities, the majority in Manama which is the capital and the largest urban center. That city stands on a seabed, parts of which were recently reclaimed from the water.
  • Only 1 percent of the land is fertile, the country is unable to produce enough food for its population and relies almost entirely on import
  • Political parties are prohibited, but there are several small underground leftist and Islamic fundamentalist groups.
  • While arranged marriage is still common, the bride and groom often have a chance to meet before they marry. While it was traditional for girls to be married at twelve or thirteen years of age, they now tend to wait until they have finished their education and have a job. Upon marriage, a sum of money is paid to the bride by the groom’s family. (Well a least they are trying).
Bahraini Chicken Machboos
Bahraini Chicken Machboos

Ingredients: 2 large onions, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1 1/2 table spoon baharat (ingredients and recipe below), 1 tablespoon of turmeric, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, combination of chicken thighs, legs and breasts, 1 hot green chile, seeded and diced1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced, 5 large cloves or garlic thinly sliced, 2 large roma tomatoes diced, 2 or 3 limes sliced, 5 cardamon pods, ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 2½ teaspoons salt, 2½ cups chicken stock, 2 cups basmati rice (soaked for at least 15 minutes, then rinsed and drained), 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped

Ingredients Baharat (you can buy baharat in a jar, but I had everything so I just made it myself): 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, ¼ teaspoon green cardamon seeds, 1 tablespoon paprika powder, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Recipe Baharat

Set the paprika and nutmeg powders aside. Place all remaining ingredients (whole seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves) in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium-high heat, tossing regularly to prevent scorching, for 3-4 minutes or until very fragrant. Transfer to a spicegrinder and let cool. Add the paprika and nutmeg and grind all the ingredients to a fine powder. Store left over baharat in an airtight jar.

Recipe Chicken Machboos

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and fry the chicken pieces on both sides until the skin is brown and crispy. Transfer the chicken to a plate and leave the remaining oil in the Dutch oven. Add the ghee (or butter), reduce the heat to medium, and fry the onions until starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chile pepper and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the baharat and turmeric and cook for another minute. Return the chicken pieces to the Dutch oven along with the tomatoes, limes, cardamom pods, cinnamon and cloves. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for one hour. Add the cilantro, parsley and drained rice and stir to combine. Return it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until the rice is done and has absorbed the liquid. Transfer the chicken and rice to a serving dish (either leave the chicken pieces tossed in with the rice, or place the chicken on top of the rice)

1. Afghanistan: Rice Pilav with Lamb, Carrots, Raisins and Chicken kebabs with Cilanto Garlic Yoghurt Sauce

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The first country mentioned in my book is Afghanistan. To be honest I don’t really know anything about Afghanistan except for the obvious things that show up on the news.

    So I looked up some fun facts about Afghanistan!
  • Poetry is a big part of Afghans’culture and it has been for centuries. In the city of Herat, women, men and children gather on Thursday night to share verses from old and new poetry.
  • Afghanistan’s national sport is Buzkashi (no idea how it is pronounced), or in other words, goat-grabbing. It’s a sport where the players in two teams try to catch a goat while riding on a horse. They have been playing it for centuries. Nowadays there even are sponsors involved.
  •    The main income of the local people in Afghanistan is from the agricultural sector. Many people plant their farm with rice, fruit, veggies and nuts. Some of their crops are exported too.

I had no idea what the Afghan kitchen entailed. My starting point was Google (obviously). It quickly became clear that Pilaf is their national dish but that everyone makes it in their own way, so I tried to combine all of them. I was at my parents house when I made this, and my family loved this dish. When I told them that I was going to cook Afghan food they were a little worried. But fortunately they were pleasantly surprised when this came to the table! If anyone has any suggestions, opinions, critisisms or maybe you make this dish in a different way (or maybe i’m doing it completly wrong) please let me know, because I want to learn how to do it the right way! I found all the recipes on!

afghan rice pilaf with lamb and chicken kebabs
afghan rice pilaf with lamb and chicken kebabs

Rice Pilaf with Lamb Carrots and Raisins (for 7 people) Ingredients:3 cups of basmati rice, 1 medium onion, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 5 cups of water, 2 large carrots, 1 1/2 pounds of boneless lamb shank cut into thumb size pieces, raisins to taste. Wash rice in several changes of cold water until the water becomes almost clear. Soak the rice in cold water for 1 hour, then drain well in a sieve. While the rice soaks, fry un onion in oil in a large casserole pan. Pat the lamb dry and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of salt. Add to the onion and brown on all sides about 8 minutes total. Add 1 cup of water and bring to simmer. Cover pot and reduce heat to ,ow, then braise lamb stirring occasionally, until meat is tender about. 15 minutes. Stir in the drained rice, carrots, raisins and 2 teaspoons of salt. Add enough water to cover the mixture by 1 inch and bing to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat, until rice is tender and liquid about 20 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and transfer pilaf to a large platter. Chicken Kebabs Ingredients: 1/4 cup of greek yoghurt, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 6 garlic cloves minced, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 3 chickenbreasts.  Equipment: Metal skewers Whisk together yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic, turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt  in a large bowl, then add the chicken, stirring to coat. Marinate, covered and chilled at least 4 hours ( the recipe said 8, but I didn’t have the time, so I marinated them as long as possible). Thread  pieces onto the skewers. and put them on BBQ or grill pan. Cilantro Garlic Yoghurt Sauce (for the chicken kebabs) Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups of greek yoghurt, 3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, 4 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic, 3/4 teaspoon of cayenne.  Stir together all  ingredients with 1 teaspoon of salt, then chill, covered at leaf 30 minutes (for flavors to blend)

Great movie about Afghanistan: The Kiterunner (2007)