I let go of blogging for a while but I am back with more recipes and news. I was in the UAE twice in the last month, first as a guest of the Sharjah International Book Fair (this deserves a separate post) then as a guest of Maggi.
Christmas is calling for immediate attention, so I will start with Maggi . Maggi is part of the giant Swiss food company Nestlé, and is a household fixture in any kitchen in the entire Middle East. We drank milk growing-up made from powdered milk such as Nido and my mother always used the Maggi bouillon and soup mixes when she was pressed for time, which was basically always.
I admit I veered away from these foods when I left home and wanted to explore the culinary world on my own terms. Since 2011, however, after relocating to Lebanon, I have started to use the bouillon cubes because they are very popular in Lebanese kitchens. The reason is simple: The cubes do add a boost of flavor, with minimal effort!
I was excited to meet the folks behind the ubiquitous soup mixes and bouillon cubes! I met Chef Mehdi, head of R&D in the Maggi testing kitchen and was impressed with the stringent standards placed on the actual products. There is not a single product that does not comply fully with standards set by the World Health Organization! These folks basically only process the highest quality of raw fresh veggies and meats (breast of chicken is used, but not bones for their bouillon cubes) and have eliminated all preservatives and chemicals from their foods. What a relief!
I will be using a bouillon cube today to make a dish that is emblematic of the GCC countries, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and is called kabsa.
Kabsa is a glorious rice and meat platter, garnished with fried nuts and caramelized onions. There are many versions of it, some are made with meat some with chicken. What makes it super yummy is the spice mix used. Now, Kabsa mix is sold all over the GCC countries and the rest of the Middle East, but you can also improvise and make your own. I used a variety of spices, omitted tomatoes (usually tomatoes or tomato paste is added), and made a dish to reflect a cross between a Lebanese chicken and rice and a Saudi or Emirati one. I added ground beef to the rice, lots of spices (Emirati or Saudi-style) and used chicken thighs and lots of nuts to garnish.
NOTE: I would recommend using one type of chicken cut if you want to make this a one-pot meal.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Passive Time: 30 minutes
- 2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts or any cut you like
- 1/2 pound ground beef or lamb or a mixture
- 3 large onions, one sliced, the others chopped
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (can use light olive oil)
- 2 cups long-grain rice, preferably Basmati
- 1 cup mixed nuts, previously fried or roasted
- 2 Maggi bouillon cubes, beef or chicken flavor
- 1 Tbsp Kabsa spices or substitute a mixture of 1 tsp cardamom, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp cloves and 1 tsp ground cumin and turmeric or saffron. Add more spices to this mix as you see fit. If using saffron, "dissolve" it in 2 tablespoons of warm water and add it with the bouillon later.
- 2 dried limes (called noomi Basra), pocked with a fork in 2 places
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley to garnish (optional)
- In a large (2-quart) pot with a lid, fry the meat first until browned. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and pan-fry the onion and chicken till golden, adding more oil if necessary; add the spices and the meat back and add the rice. Stir for a couple of minutes.
- Add 4 cups of water, the bouillon cubes and the dried limes and the saffron if using. Cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes or so until the rice is cooked.
- Uncover, and taste to adjust seasoning. Present the dish on a platter with nuts and chopped parsley on top.
I separated the chicken after it was cooked for the sake of the presentation. I used a bundt pan and laid the chicken pieces at the bottom as shown, then added the rice pilaf. I warmed-up the dish briefly before serving and garnished it with nuts.
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