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Qatari chicken and rice

The world of biryani, layered rice, though originally from India, crosses out of its borders in today world of migration and trade. This version in Qatar is both a consequence of the old trade routes and the fact that so many Indians go to the Middle East as labor.

It is quite a special dish, the perfect combination of meat, spices and fragrant rice. It strays from the tradittional Indian biryani in the fact that it has no chilies, but the soft Mediterranean spices more than make up for the flavor. In addition, it is packed with chunks of vegetables, eggplant and potatoes, in addition to the bone-in chicken. The rice is complex, saturated in ghee, scented with both saffron and rose water, it is aromatic and perfect to off-set the spices in the spiced meat called the mashkul. They all come together beautifully, loads of flavors, textures and aromas. My recommendation is to serve this dish stand-alone for a meal, maybe a small, light soup or salad to start, and this dish be the centerpiece of the meal where it belongs. Yes this dish is anumber of steps and work, but the results far outweigh for effort. I love this dish to its core and will definitely make it again.

This cookbook is so much more than a collection of recipes, but a history of a culture and its contribution to the cuisines of the world. The author has travelled extensively to research this cookbook, and this is evident in the introduction to the book and each recipe. Filled with historical notes and tidbits of information, I can sit and read this cookbook as a novel.

For more recipes from the amazing cookbook, click here.


2 onions, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons oil

For the Mashkhul:

3 lb chicken, whole cut into pieces or cuts of your choice with or without bone

Salt, to taste

1 small bay leaf

6-8 black peppercorns

1/2 -inch piece cinnamon bark

3 cloves

6 cups water

2 medium potatoes, peeled and wedged

1 small eggplant, wedged

Olive oil spray

Salt, to taste

Sprinkling of pepper

10 tablespoons oil

4 onions, thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, cut into small strips

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander seed

1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin seed

1/2 teaspoons ground fennel seed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Qatari biryani masala, see recipe below

4 dried black Omani limes, Halved and the inside pulp used, discard the skins

2 small garlic cloves, minced finely

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tomatoes, finely minced

2 tablespoons parsley, minced + for garnish

2 tablespoons cilantro, minced + for garnish

Salt, to taste

For the rice:

3 cups basmati rice, soaked in water

3 tablespoons ghee

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

A generous pinch saffron soaked in 1/4 cup hot rose water for 30 minutes

Qatari biryani masala (Makes 1 1/2 cups):

1/4 cup coriander seeds

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

6 green cardamom pods

4 2-inch pieces cinnamon sticks

1 star anise

1 tablespoon nutmeg powder

4 pieces mace

1 bay leaf

To make the Qatari biryani masala, dry roast all the spices individually till aromatic and lightly colored. Cool and grind to a fine powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder. This mix will keep in an air-tight container for months.

Start by poaching the chicken. Add the chicken, salt, bay leaf, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and cloves to the water and bringing to a boil. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Skim the foam off at the start for a cleaner broth and chicken. When done remove and cool, keeping the chicken in the broth to keep it moist.

While the chicken is simmering, make the roasted potatoes and eggplant. Heat the oven to 375 F in convection mode.

Add the potatoes and eggplant in a single layer to a foil lined baking dish. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and spray generously with oil. Bake till the eggplant is cooked through and soft (about 20 minutes, turn once), and the potatoes are cooked through and crisp on the outside (about 30 minutes, turn once). Remove and set aside to cool.

Make the fried onions. Add the oil to a deep dish and heat on medium. Add the sliced onions (2 onions) and fry till light brown and crisp. Remove, drain oil and set on paper towels to remove excess oil and crisp up. Set aside for garnish.

In the same pot add the 6 tablespoons oil and the remaining 4 sliced onions and fry till browned. Remove and drain and set aside. Add about 2 tablespoons oil and fry the peppers till soft. Remove, drain and set aside. Mix the fried onions and peppers together.

Once the chicken has cooked, remove the chicken peices and whiole spices. Discard spices and keep chicken covered so it does not dry out. Keep the broth for the next steps.

Add enough stock to the rice and cook the rice to completion. Set aside till needed.

To finsih the mashkhul. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the same pot on low heat. Add the drained chicken and ground spices and biryani masala coating the chicken. Fry for 5 minutes on low heat till the chicken starts getting some color. Remove and set aside. Do not fry on high heat as you will burn the spices.

Add 2 tablespoons oil to the same pot and add back the fried onions and pepper mix and heat up. Add the garlic, ginger and dried lime pulp and sauté till the garlic is cooked and aromatic. Add back the chicken and heat up mixing the sauce well. Add in the potatoes and eggplants and fold in gently, taking care not to break up the vegetables, especially the soft eggplant. Set aside.

To color the rice, heat the ghee till just melted. Add the turmeric and cook in the residual heat. Add the saffron-rose water and mix in, it may splatter if the ghee is too hot. Sprinkle the colored ghee over 1/2 the rice and mix in well. After a minute, when the color is absorbed, fold in gently with the white rice to create white and yellow layers.

To serve, add a layer of rice to the bottom of a wide large plate or dish. Layer with the chicken mix. Top with another layer of the rice. Finally garnish with the fried onions and the cilantro and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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