Al kabsa

20 Jun

Al Kabsa

Al kabsa is made by patiently cooking meat, vegetables and rice with an array of spices in a slowly simmering stock until it reaches a flavoursome tenderness.

Widely considered to be Saudi Arabia’s national dish, al kabsa is an obvious choice to represent the Saudi team in our 2018 World Cup cook-off.

There are many varieties of al kabsa and I looked at a number of recipes. It can be made with chicken, beef, lamb, goat, camel or seafood. (Chicken seemed the obvious choice there.)

The spicing varied between recipes too, but consistently included dried lime, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and saffron. Kabsa spice mixes are available, but it seemed more hassle to track one down than make my own.

One spice that al kabsa doesn’t include is chilli. Apparently, the Saudis serve it with a particular hot sauce called shattah (or shatta). I served mine with sriracha.

My recipe is based on this one from the Genius Kitchen website. I added a lot less water than suggested, planning to top it up with a splash of boiling water part way through if necessary, but it worked out just right.

Al kabsa
(serves 4 generously)

  • 2 Tb butter
  • 6 chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 3 Tb tomato paste
  • 1 450g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 1 dried lime, seeded and ground (I did this in a coffee grinder)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • a pinch of saffron
  • a pinch of cloves
  • a few gratings of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 2½ cups basmati rice
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • slivered almonds, toasted, to serve
  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy, lidded saucepan over a medium flame.
  2. Add the chicken thighs, and cook until browned all over.
  3. Push the chicken up against the edge of the saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until softened.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and cook a few minutes more, then add the chopped tomatoes, carrots, one teaspoon of the dried lime powder, and all the rest of the spices. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the water and stock cube. Bring to a boil, then cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Carefully stir in the rice, cover again, and simmer for ten minutes. Stir in the raisins, cover, and cook about ten minutes more, or until the rice is tender.
  7. On a large platter, arrange the chicken pieces on top of the rice, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.

Family score: 8.25 out of 10

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