Machboos (Qatar)

In continuation of the #F1 themed #SundayLunch in #ParlezPantry we close out the final triple header of the season in Qatar.

Other variants exist, Kabsa chicken or meat served on a bed of steaming rice and filled with exotic spices is a national dish of Saudi Arabia. Variations are also popular in Yemen and the Gulf States of the Arabian peninsula, where it is known as Machboos. Also known as Majboos, also think Biryani, but they are all based on a similar make up, that said, there is a myriad of methods for combining and cooking. After much research, here is mine:

We’re even making our on Bharat (it simply means spice mix) in Qatar. Kabsa as mentioned above also serves the same term elsewhere. This serves up to 6 but you could easily adjust accordingly.


6 Chicken thighs (skin on, bone in)
3 cups Basmati rice
4 White onions (thinly sliced)
6 Salad tomatoes (roughly chopped)
1/4 cup Chopped coriander
1/5 tsp Saffron
6 Cardamom pods
1 tbsp Smoked paprika
1 Cinnamon stick
2 tbsp Tomato puree
1 tbsp Minced garlic
1 tbsp Minced ginger
12 Almonds (toasted, optional)
2 tbsp orange Raisins (toasted, optional)
2 Green chillies (sliced lengthways into quarters)
4 tablespoons Baharat
2 Black limes (pierced)
1/2 Nutmeg (crushed)
1/4 cup Olive oil


1 cup Cumin seeds
1 cup Coriander seeds
1/2 cup Ginger powder
1/2 cup Cinnamon powder
1/2 cup Turmeric powder
1/2 cup Ground black pepper

Preparation of the Baharat

First up, dry roast the whole spices (including the cinnamon stick) in a small pan over medium heat, tossing frequently to prevent scorching, until very fragrant, about 3-4 minutes (the cumin seeds should start to pop).

Once cooled place them all in a pestle and mortar, or spice grinder / coffee grinder and create a fine powder then set aside . There is more than you require so keep in an air tight container for future use.


Chop the onions and place in a bowl, combine ginger and garlic in a separate bowl.

Wash the rice thoroughly before leaving to soak for at least 1 hour.

We want to get some colour on that chicken but not cook it at stage as we shall set it aside until later. Add a little oil to the pan on a medium heat, once it is freely able to move around the pan add the chicken skin side down, this will allow the fat in the skin to render down, after a few minutes check the underside and if nicely coloured, turn it over for a further 2 minutes then set aside.

Over a medium high heat add some more oil if required oil and cook the onions until translucent then add the following, Baharat, start with 3 tbsp and add as you see fit, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chillies, nutmeg, black limes (don’t forget to pierce them to allow them to re-hydrate and infuse beautifully), sadd alt and leave until the mixture blends and thoroughly incorporates.

Then add 2 tbsp of tomato puree and cook that out for a couple of minutes to remove any bitterness.

Add 5 cups of boiling water and the optional almonds and raisins, add the paprika and reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, remove the lid, add the saffron, and return the chicken to the pot along with the chopped coriander for a further 20 minutes on low.

Remove the chicken again from the pot before adding the rice and the cardamom pods and the chillies, and leave it on a low boil for 15 – 20 minutes, don’t be tempted to remove some liquid, you want the rice to fully soak it all up as it infuse it, you may even require more time depending on the depth of your pan.

Pre-heat the grill (or if you’re American the broiler) at 180c. Line a baking sheet with silver foil and place the chicken atop skin side up. Brush with a little ghee or butter and a little more paprika, to add a rich colour under the grill for 10 to 15 minutes (keep checking it).

Transfer the chicken and rice to a serving dish, you can remove the black limes or leave them on the platter (not for eating though), and in good old Brian Hanrahan fashion during the Falklands War with regards the cardamom pods, you could leave them or “count them all out and count them all back again).

As for garnish you could choose from cucumber, tomatoes, more coriander atop the platter, with a cucumber raita on the side, it’s your choice.

nb: The photograph is not mine as I have not yet made this dish due to a hospital appointment and it clearly isn’t chicken thighs, nor do I have such flowery plates. It shall be replaced at some stage in the future.

Author: Ghyllfoot

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