Khubz (Bahraini Flat Bread)
Mishmish (Apricot Chutney)
I have to admit, I knew nothing of the Kingdom of Bahrain prior to cooking this meal. Sure, I've heard the name and I knew it was somewhere in the Middle East. Supposedly it's one of the more liberal of Middle Eastern countries and that it's a good introduction to Persian Gulf travel. The name translates to "the Kingdom of Two Seas". Sounds like a lovely land full of hobbits and wizardry. According to the CIA's website, it has a little human trafficking problem (ie: involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation). But hey, nobody's perfect right? On the upside, being an island nation I bet it's got some really beautiful beaches. Oh, and they are also host to the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix. That's right kids, who wouldn't want to see Nascar on a desert island nation? (Don't get your panties in a bunch, I may not know the difference between F1 racing and Nascar but I do know that "rubbin' is racin'". Tom Cruise taught me that in his hit movie Days of Thunder). Hot gasoline fumes and corn dogs in the acrid desert. My idea of vacation. Seriously though, Bahrain looks like a lovely place with lovely people. Hell, America has more than it's share of faults so in no way do I mean to be insulting. A sense of humor about yourself goes a long way towards building a better, kinder world.
Considering I don't work for the international tourism board, I'll spare you facts about how many apple trees grow in Bahrain per year (the answer is zero) or which Bahraini beach is the nakedest. No ma'am, I'm ready to talk about the food (I'm always ready to talk about food). So this was a pretty hard country to research. I came upon countless recipes for universal "Arabic" food but I wanted something that was purely Bahraini. While it may not be distinctly Bahraini, Machboos is a traditional dish that is common on the Bahraini dinner table. It's basically a tasty pilaf served with chicken, meat, or fish. The combination of aromatics like the spice mix buharat, dried black limes, and rose water lend a very unique flavor that is distinct in Bahraini cuisine. I made chicken machboos and it was so frickin' delicious. It just might give my Cuban arroz con pollo a run for it's money.
Khubz is pretty much Arabic for bread. Kind of like a cross between pita and naan. The dough is rolled out like a pizza and then slapped against the sides of a special oven. Not to make excuses but I don't have a khubz oven so I decided to buy mine from the Pike Place Middle Eastern shop The Souk. Plus the fact that we're in the middle of a heat wave here in Seattle, the idea of turning on the oven makes my insides die a little just thinking about it.
The Apricot Chutney went awesomely with the Chicken Mazdoon. It was sour and sweet with a mix of fresh chopped apricots, hot chilies, lime juice, and toasted almonds. Sometimes people make it with dried apricots but I like the sourness that fresh apricots give. It's actually more like a salsa than a chutney. I would eat it on a taco for sure.
Once again, I've eaten a little bit of a country I knew very little about and through it's cuisine, I've gained a little more insight to it's beautiful culture. I now have a few more exotic dishes to impress people with and my international culinary knowledge grows bigger and better. Sure, it was just a taste of Bahrain's culture, but sometimes just getting a taste will make you hungry for more.
Buharat Spice Mix
4 tsp paprika powder
4 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cloves powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp ginger powder
5 cups fresh chicken stock (or water)
3 cups basmati rice
3 tomatoes, diced
3-3 ½ lb chicken
3 onions, finely chopped
1/2 bunch coriander leaves (cilantro), chopped
1 jalapeno chili, sliced
2 black dried limes
1 Tbsp buharat spice mix
1 ½ teaspoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons rose water
Cut up the chicken into pieces (legs, thighs, half breasts, etc). In a bowl, mix the buharat. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture on the chicken and season with salt..
Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or deep skillet, add the chicken and let the skin get nice and crispy. When you get a good sear on all sides of the chicken remove to a plate and keep warm.
Add the onions and saute until golden brown, then add the jalapeno, garlic, ginger and the black limes (pole a small hole in the limes). Saute for a few minutes and then add all of the spices and toast for a minute or two.
Add the chicken back to the pan. Make sure the chicken gets coated with the spices, add the tomato and 1 cup of chicken stock. Cover the pan and let it cook for about 45 minutes over medium low, or until the chicken is cooked.
Add the rice and the rest of the chicken stock, stir, bring to a boil, cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes or until rice is cooked through.
Sprinkle rose water and lemon juice over the rice and place the butter pieces on the top. Serve on a platter with the chicken on top. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and apricot chutney.
For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States