Bahraini Chicken Machboos

 

About a month ago, our friend/former co-worker Noel moved with her husband to Bahrain. Not exactly your average move to the other side of town, or across state lines. Noel has been blogging about their move and adventures halfway around the world, which is so fun to see! I was pretty jealous reading about their first Iftar in Bahrain and the gluttonous mounds of food they were offered, which prompted me to investigate the cuisine of Bahrain. From here I learned that the “national dish” of Bahrain is this one we’re sharing today, Chicken Machboos.

This is a simple chicken and rice dish, but with way more spices and flavor than the typical American comfort food version. It is not spicy, but deeply spiced. I tasted the rice both before and after the addition of the rosewater, and let me tell you… you don’t want to skip that step. Don’t fear the floral aroma! It doesn’t make your dish taste sweet or like you’re munching on a bouquet of flowers. It does bring out the flavor of all of the other spices in the dish though. Rosewater can be found at some regular grocery stores, but definitely at Middle Eastern markets. And since you’re definitely going to need to hit up a Middle Eastern market/grocer for the loomi, you now have two reasons to explore. I’ve been wanting to cook with loomi for awhile now. I love trying new ingredients! Loomi are dried limes. Sometimes they’re labelled as such, or as black limes, or even (incorrectly) as dried lemons. Loomi are used in many Middle Eastern recipes, especially those with Persian origins. To make them, fresh limes are boiled in salt water and then left out in the sun to dry. Definitely a unique taste for the average American palate! Give them a try and see what you think!

loomi
Loomi ⇑

PS: Noel, what should we make next?? Send us more Bahraini/Arabic/Gulf/Middle Eastern recipes or ideas!

chickmachboos

Bahraini Chicken Machboos

(Adapted from here & here)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp baharat*
  • 2 tbsp paprika*
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • ~3lbs mixed, bone-in chicken pieces (we used thighs & drumsticks)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 large jalapeno, de-seeded & minced
  • 3 loomi/dried limes/black limes
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp rosewater
*We’ve made our own baharat mixture, following these proportions, as suggested by a Syrian chef when we made Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha). As with most spice blends, there are many variations of exact mixtures, especially regionally. Most baharat blends contain paprika; the one we follow does not, so we’ve added it to the recipe. You can also buy this blend, usually at a Middle Eastern market or similar place.
Instructions: 
  1. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Combine all of the spices in a small prep bowl to the side.
  2. Pat all of the chicken pieces dry and season with roughly a third of the spice mixture. Fry the chicken, skin down, until brown and crispy. (You will likely have to do this in batches.) Remove pieces to the side.
  3. Now add the onions to the hot oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Follow the onions with the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Top this with the remaining spice mixture. Continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes.
  4. Poke holes into the dried limes and add them, along with the tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, and chicken stock, to the pot.
  5. Return the chicken to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. After reaching that boil, lower heat to a slow simmer and cover, cooking like this for 1 hour.
  6. While the main dish is cooking, soak the rice in cool water. Drain when the main dish has reached that hour of cook time.
  7. Add this point, remove the chicken to a lined cookie sheet, preheated to 325 degrees. This will bake just while while the rice is cooking.
  8. Add the rice, cilantro, and parsley to the liquid in the dutch oven. Simmer until the rice is cooked and liquid absorbed, which should take less than 10 minutes. Remove from heat while the rice still appears wet.
  9. Remove the cinnamon sticks and dried limes.
  10. Sprinkle the rice with the rosewater. Adjust salt if needed.
  11. Serve with chicken on top of the rice.
Serves 6-8

Muhammara

muhammara

We’re having an impromptu New Year’s Eve “party” tonight. I put party in quotations because we’re not exactly a wild bunch. We’re having food, alcohol, and friends on NYE, so I feel like it qualifies as a party, but we’re doing a lot more playing of board games than dancing on tables.

I’ve wanted to make muhammara for awhile now and tonight seemed like a good night! It’s really pretty easy to make, especially if you have a decent food processor. I mostly followed the recipe of my old faithful, Yotam Ottolenghi, for this one. If it’s any type of food from the greater Middle East, I feel like he makes it and makes it well! Muhammara originates from Aleppo, Syria, so the use of Aleppo pepper in the dish just feels important and necessary to me. Unfortunately, the civil war in Syria has greatly decreased world-wide supply of Aleppo pepper.* (*Obviously, this is not the most important negative impact of the Syrian civil war.) But with that in mind, if you don’t have any/can’t find any, you can substitute a smaller quantity of crushed red pepper flakes. (Aleppo pepper isn’t quite as spicy and has a deeper depth of flavor + a slight sweetness as compared to crushed red pepper. Some suggest a mixture of sweet paprika & cayenne/crushed red pepper is a okay approximation.) This spread is popular from Syria through Turkey and the Caucasus, with some regional variations. The main ingredients always include red pepper and walnuts (the basis of the dip), Aleppo pepper, and olive oil.

Also, for your party hosting pleasure, this recipe would be very easy to scale up. This yielded ~ 2 cups.

Hope you enjoy!

Happy New Year!! 🎉🎇🥂🖤

muhammara2.jpg

Muhammara

(Adapted slightly from Ottolenghi)
Ingredients: 
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs [I actually used cracker crumbs – crushed matzoh from our Potato Latkes the other night]
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup walnut pieces
  • Salt to taste
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bell peppers in half, removing the stems & seeds, and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and roast until blackened and blistering, ~30-35 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, grind up the walnuts in a food processor. You want them to be fairly finely ground, but still have some texture. Set to the side.
  3. Peel the skin off of the red peppers once they are cool enough to handle.
  4. Place peppers, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, bread crumbs, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and garlic in the food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Again, don’t over-process and destroy all of the texture.
  5. By hand, stir in the walnuts into the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Add salt to taste.
  7. When serving, top with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha)

symeatballs.jpg

Today is World Food Day. I’m not going to lie, when I saw that name, I thought – “Yesssssss, a day dedicated to my favorite thing, food! Let’s eat tons of food in the name of this brilliant holiday!” Well, I guess that’s sort of true, but come to find out, there’s a lot more behind this holiday than my original superficial thoughts. World Food Day was created by the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization to commemorate the founding of that branch of the UN. Their goal for this day and its events around the world is to “promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.” Check out their website for more information and details.

Each year, World Food Day has a theme, usually reflective of the geopolitical issues of the world. The theme relates back to one of the organization’s overall goals – #ZeroHunger by 2030. For example, 2016’s WFD concentrated on climate change, 2011’s on food pricing, 1998’s on women, and 1987’s on small farmers. The theme for 2017 focuses on the vast numbers of migrants and refugees through the lens of food. Their focus is on mitigating the need for migration through increasing food security. Of course, many migrants and refugees don’t have the option of remaining in their homes, and are at incredibly high risk for hunger and food insecurity.

symeatball2

For us and this blog, this day turned out to be even more of an inspiration for our dinner (and blog post, obviously) than I originally anticipated. In honor of the day and this year’s theme, I decided to use our dinner to pay homage to the incredibly devastating humanitarian crisis coming out of Syria. The last statistics I saw stated that there are 5.1 million Syrian refugees and 6.6 million internally displaced people. I think sometimes, whether it’s because of the sheer volume of the negative news barrage or perhaps even personal biases, we don’t think about the individual people behind the buzz phrase “refugee crisis.” What would we do if we were in their shoes? Certainly our dinner and little blog aren’t going to improve the lives of any refugees, but it can’t hurt. Food is a great equalizer; we all need it and most of us love it. I like to think that food can be the bridge and shrink our large, scattered world, one meal at a time!

And if you had to pick a new meal to try, this would be a great one! The flavors are delicious and a quite a bit different than your average American meatball. We served it over rice and were thinking that the only thing that might make this better, would be a sprinkling of feta cheese on top!

symeatballs3.jpg

Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha)

(This recipe is slightly adapted from this one from syriancooking.com)
Ingredients: 
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley + more for garnish
  • 2 tsp baharat, divided [I made this mix myself, following these proportions]
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 medium fresh tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together ground beef with chopped parsley, 1 tsp baharat, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few turns of fresh ground black pepper.
  3. Roll out mixture into small, ~1 inch meatballs. Lay out on a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  4. Bake meatballs for 20 minutes so they have begun to brown.
  5. Meanwhile, in a pan with high edges, heat the oil. Once warm, add the sliced onions. Top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 15 minutes until onions are nice and browned.
  7. Puree the tomatoes in a food processor (or dice by hand).
  8. Add the tomatoes puree to the pan with the onions. Cook for 20 minutes over medium-high heat, still stirring occasionally, as some liquid burns off and the sauce thickens.
  9. Add the meatballs to the pan. Continue to simmer the tomato sauce, lowering heat slightly, for an additional 20 minutes, coating the meatballs with the sauce.
  10. Five minutes prior to serving, stir in the remaining 1 tsp of baharat and additional salt & pepper if needed.
  11. Serve garnished with additional parsley if desired.
Serves 3-4.

Sfiha

sfiha

Yesterday morning before going to the grocery store, we had a pretty standard conversation around here…

“Do you want to pick out a new recipe to try tonight before we go to the store?”

“Duh.”

Selim was perusing one of our favorite books, The World’s Best Street Food, from Lonely Planet. Our friend Kayla gave it to us for Christmas one year. The recipe for sfiha, which are Lebanese meat pies, caught Selim’s eye. From an eyeball at the pictures and the recipe, sfiha reminded him of one of his Turkish favorites, lahmacun. So, we decided to try it tonight.

This recipe does include several ingredients you might not have on hand, but nothing you wouldn’t be able to use again. We had to get a few things. We couldn’t find pomegranate molasses though. This is commonly used in many dishes in countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire… think Turkish or Lebanese food. Well we couldn’t find pomegranate molasses at the store OR any fresh pomegranates to make our own. So below, you’ll see a non-traditional improvisation. Instead of pomegranate, we used some of our fresh cherries and made a little syrup out of them by squeezing the juice out and reducing it with a touch of balsamic and lemon juice. [Most of the time Whole Foods, international grocery stores, and Middle Eastern markets will have this ingredient, we were just feeling lazy today and didn’t put in that much effort.]

Conclusion? These are delicious! The filling is so flavorful. The more you think about it, the more flavors you notice. Meat! Spices! Mint! Pine nuts! So many tastes!! Ours came out a little greasy. I think the butter in the recipe is completely unnecessary and would definitely leave it out next time. Didn’t ruin the deliciousness though!

Sfiha

Adapted from Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Street Food

Ingredients:

Dough
  • 1 cup warm milksfihaingredients
  • 1 tsp active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Filling
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, dicedrollingballs
  • 5 large mint leaves, torn
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tsp Balsamic vinegar*
  • 1 tsp lemon juice*
  • 20 cherries, pitted*
  • 2 tbsp butter {I would omit this next time!}
*{Can skip this if you have pomegranate molasses. In that case, use 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses.}
Optional Toppings
  • Additional yogurt
  • Additional pine nuts
  • Feta cheese
  • Lemon wedgessfihacounter

Instructions: 

  1. Set the cup of milk out so it can warm to room temperature. You can check with a thermometer; you want the milk to be ~100 degrees. Once it’s warm, whisk in the yeast. Once the yeast is dissolved, set the bowl aside until it begins to froth and bubble a little bit.
  2. Now mix the other dough ingredients in another bowl. Mix well.
  3. Once the milk/yeast bowl has frothed up, add it to the bowl of a stand mixer with the bread hook attachment. Start the mixer on low and add the flour/etc bowl to the stand mixer bowl. Allow this to work together for ~10 minutes. (Alternately, do this step by hand and knead for 10 minutes.)
  4. Now cover the dough in the bowl with a dry cloth and allow to rise. You want it to double in size. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Take a break for awhile or make your filling so its ready when the dough is. The filling can sit in the fridge for awhile if need be.
  6. To start the filling, add the pine nuts to a small pan, so they make one flat layer. Toast over medium heat for only a few minutes. You’ll notice them start to get brown and toasty. It only takes a few minutes… don’t let them burn! Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. Pit and halve cherries. Squish them with the back of a spoon to juice the cherries. Place the juice in a small pan over low heat with the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. It will thicken up after only 5 minutes or so. Once your juice/sauce has thickened, remove from heat.
  8. Combine toasted pine nuts, cherry/pomegranate syrup, onion, tomatoes, garlic, mint, and spices in a food processor. Pulse until they are well-combined.
  9. In a large bowl, combine the above mixture with lamb, yogurt, and tahini. It may seem a little on the liquid-y side (I thought so!), but it’s fine. Refrigerate if you’re still waiting on your dough.
  10. Once dough is ready, roll into small balls between your palms. You want the balls to be fairly small… prune-sized?? Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Flour a dry surface and roll out your dough balls into rough circles.
  12. Place 1-2 tbsp of the meat filling in the center of the dough, depending upon the size of your dough. You want a fairly small dollop, smaller than you might be inclined to use. Pinch up the edges of the dough into corners.
  13. Place little pastries on a cookie sheet that’s either covered with a Silpat mat (greatest invention!) or sprayed with cooking spray.
  14. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The edges should be golden-brown and the filling should be sizzling.
  15. Enjoy plain or top with a dollop of yogurt, some feta, extra pine nuts, or a squeeze of lemon. sfihaoven
This recipe makes 25-30 portions.