- Tarun Kapoor is executive chef at Doha’s Horizon Manor Hotel. Send your feedback to:
What can be a better day to learn and cook traditional Qatari cuisine than the National Day itself?
Yes today, as we all celebrate the National Day across Qatar, let’s celebrate Qatar in our kitchen as well by preparing one of the most loved Qatari dishes — the chicken machboos. This is a staple Qatari dish prepared and served across almost all Qatari households all year round. As with most of the traditional dishes there are numerous variants to this dish.
Qatar is a peninsula in the Persian Gulf with desserts spanning across the length and breadth of the country, due to which the availability of raw materials was always limited. The travellers from Iran and the Indian subcontinent always carried aromatic spices and nuts to sell in Qatar. Due to this reason there is a resemblance in the spices used in the Qatari cuisine and the surrounding countries.
Being surrounded by sea from three sides, the population has a well-developed taste and liking for seafood along with poultry. Camel is also occasionally eaten as a delicacy during feasts and lavish weddings. There are restaurants that specialise in cooking whole camels with the stuffing of rice.
Oozie is another popular dish, made of baby lamb filled with rice served whole. Talking about vegetarian options, date is the prime produce and the region is known to produce one of the finest date varieties in the world. Date in itself is a complete meal with its high calorie and filling nature, it gives your body the essential nutrients required.
Dates are served in the first course of Iftar to break the fast in the holy month of Ramadan. I must say that the locals have a love for their desserts. A sweet is a must after a meal to call it complete — Esh Asaraya, Umali, Kunafeh, and Baklava are some of the options.
Coffee is an integral and important aspect of Qatari food culture. Arabian coffee is made with lightly roasted coffee bean that is sweetened and spiced with cardamom and is served in small portions in thimble shaped cups to the guests. There are certain etiquettes to be observed while drinking with a local, like the coffee server will continue to pour more coffee after you finish unless you hold the empty cup in front of him and shake it two or three times to express that you don’t need more.
Basmati rice 1 kg
Chicken with skin 1 ½ kg
Onion, sliced 2 no
Tomato 3 no
Eggplant 2 no
Potato 1 no
Chana dal ½ cup
Dried lemon 2 no
Big peppers 3-4 no
Ginger 1 inch cube
Garlic 6-8 cloves
Cardamom powder 4-6 pods
Cinnamon powder 1 piece
Cloves powder 3-5 no
Lemon juice ¼ cup
Salt To taste
Curry powder 1 tbsp
Cooking oil ½ cup
Water 5-6 cups
Coriander leaves Few sprigs
Dill leaves Few sprigs
Raisin To garnish
Boiled eggs 2 no (optional)
Wash and soak the rice and chana dal for 20 minutes, wash and cut the chicken into half lengthwise.
Mix ginger chopped, garlic chopped, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, curry powder, lemon juice, turmeric powder and curry powder, salt and 2 tbsp of oil in a bowl.
Rub half of this mixture to the chicken inside out and refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a large heavy bottom pan heat 3 tbsp oil and add sliced onions and remaining spices and sauté for 5 minutes or until the onions turn translucent.
Add the chicken pieces, followed by tomatoes, and potato and continue to sauté on low heat.
Add water and pierced dried lemons to it and bring to boil; once the chicken and potato is cooked remove along with tomato and keep aside.
Cut the brinjal lengthwise and deep fry till cooked, also deep fry the peppers to just cook them and keep aside.
On a hot plate, grill the chicken pieces on each side to give a golden brown colour.
Bring the stock to boil again and add the chana dal and simmer for 5 minutes, followed by rice.
Cover and cook till the stock is absorbed and the rice and chana dal is cooked.
To serve, spread the prepared rice in a platter and arrange the grilled chicken piece on top along with the tomatoes, potato, fried egg plant and pepper.
Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves and boiled egg (optional).
Chicken Machboos. Photo by the author