Growing up I was always the kid in the family that preferred home cooked food over fast food. If you were to ask one of my siblings whether they wanted rice and chicken at home or Chick-fil-A, they would almost always choose Chick-fil-A. For me, a home cooked meal beats anything you can buy. Not just any home cooked meal either, specifically Arabic food. I have always preferred Arabic food over homemade hamburgers or steaks. That’s just the true Arab in me. After I got married I realized my husband was pretty much a polar opposite in food preferences. Throw a steak and baked potato on the grill for him every day of the week and he’ll be the happiest man alive. Not that I’m complaining about how easy that is, but I just can’t do it. I come from a family who loves to cook, and lives to eat. Kabseh has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. My mom used to make it a lot because it was a food we could all agree on. It’s typically made with a long grain rice like basmati and a mixture of spices including dried limes and cardamom. This dish is one of those dishes that each family has a specific way of making. They all have the same base, but each family tends to add their own touch. I have had it many ways, but my moms will always be my favorite.
She starts off with a charred onion and pepper and adds fresh tomatoes. Meanwhile, she roasts the chicken and uses its broth to cook the sauce and break down the vegetables. She then uses that broth to cook the rice and serves it next to the perfectly crisp roasted chicken and bisque like sauce to drown your rice in. Top it off with some fried nuts and golden raisins and you have a meal to die for. I’m drooling just thinking about it. It may be a little time consuming but its totally worth it. So drop what you’re doing and make it. It’s that good.
There are a few things that I typically do when I make this dish. First off, I like to use Sela Rice. Not any Sela Rice either. I like to use the Aahu Barah Sela Rice. It’s a kind of basmati rice that holds its shape well but retains moisture beautifully. So if you eat this the next day it won’t be little sticks of dry rice. I also like to char the onion and bell pepper well before adding the tomatoes. It gives the sauce a much deeper flavor. Finally, I put a lot of water on the whole chicken before roasting it. This way I get a lot of broth to use for the sauce. I roast the chicken covered with plenty of water then use that broth for the sauce. Later I put the roasted chicken under broil to bring it back to temperature and crisp the skin. You can also adapt this recipe and use it as a base to your own new take on Kabseh. The base is there and it will taste amazing!
- 1 TBSP Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Red Onion
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Green Bell Pepper
- 1 Serrano or Jalapeno (To Taste)
- 6 Large Tomatoes
- 2 TBSP Tomato Paste
- 2 Whole Chickens
- 1 TBSP Salt
- 2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 TBSP All Spice
- 8 Green Cardamom Pods
- 4 Whole Loomi (Dried Lime)
- 8 Cups Water
- 2 Cups Sela Rice
- 1 TBSP Plain Yogurt
- 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 1/4 Cup Blanched Sliced Almonds
- 2 TBSP Pine Nuts
- 1/4 Cup Golden Raisins
- Step 1 Begin by grinding the spices. Grind the 8 Cardamom Pods with 2 of the Dried Limes (Loomi). Set Aside.
- Step 2 Preheat oven to 450 F. Prepare the Chicken by cleaning it and cutting it into desired pieces. Place in a roasting pan and sprinkle with the salt, black pepper, cinnamon, all spice, and half of the spice mixture you just ground. Pour the water over the chicken and cover the pan with foil. Place in the oven until the temperature of the chicken reaches 165 F. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Step 3 Meanwhile, roughly chop the red onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, and tomatoes.
- Step 4 Heat the olive oil in a small stock pot and add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno. On medium high heat, saute until they have a nice char and have begun to soften. Add the tomatoes and the rest of the ground cardamom and dried limes and the tomato paste. Now pour the chicken broth on top of the vegetables and cook on medium heat until the vegetables really break down.
- Step 5 Pierce the other two dried limes with a knife and add to the sauce so they can soften with the vegetables. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Step 6 Once the sauce has simmered for awhile you want to take the broth to cook the rice. Begin by removing the whole dried limes and setting aside. Strain the sauce through a colander and set aside 4 1/4 cups of the broth. Return the remaining broth to the vegetables and blend them well so you have a smooth bisque like consistency. Put the whole dried limes back into the sauce and set aside till ready to eat. You can leave it on a low simmer. Salt to taste.
- Step 7 Cook the rice by placing the 2 cups of Sela rice with the 4 1/4 cups of broth you took from the sauce. Bring the rice to a boil and then reduce heat to low and allow to cook for about 25-28 minutes or until ready.
- Step 8 In a small bowl whisk the plain yogurt with 1 TBSP of the prepared sauce. Lightly brush onto the chicken.
- Step 9 While the rice is cooking place the uncovered chicken back into the oven to reheat and crisp the skins.
- Step 10 Finally, heat the vegetable oil and fry the almonds, pine nuts, and raisins. I do the almonds first then strain and set aside. Then the pine nuts, and finally the raisins. Remove before they really change color because residual heat will cause them to burn.
- Step 11 Fluff the rice with a fork and decorate with nuts and raisins. Serve with the sauce and roasted chicken. Enjoy!