Monday, September 28, 2009

Bahrain - spice

Bahrain is called the “kingdom of the two seas” and it’s an Arab island country in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain is a famous tourist destination – 3.5 million tourists visit Bahrain each year. Who knew? And why not? One of their main attractions is the Museum of Oil. You can’t tell me that’s not on your bucket list.

Okay, all kidding aside, Bahrain has island resorts that look quite heavenly – hotels with sea views, swaying palm trees, calm waters and untouched desert sands. You can jet ski, snorkel, dolphin watch, fish, you name it. Sign me up!

On the day of the Bahrain meal I had a full schedule. John had a football game in the morning, and afterwards, Julia and I went shopping at – what we call – the big mall in Toronto. The mall in Oakville is quite pathetic which doesn’t make any sense to me since Oakville is supposed to be “stuck up” because of all the money in this town. But anyway, Julia and I had to go shopping because we’re going to my cousin’s wedding in Chicago this week and there were some things we just had to get. – like shoes. But really, it’s crazy to shop till you drop here in Canada before you go to the U.S. You will almost always find things cheaper in the U.S. and, truth be known, I am biting at the bit to shop in downtown Chicago along magnificent mile. It’ll beat shopping at a mall – that’s for sure! When I’m in a mall, especially if it’s crowded, I get what my mother termed “mallitis.” You know you’ve got this affliction when you become increasingly irritable and impatient and you find yourself sighing and rolling your eyes and walking faster than everyone else (in fact cursing those who are walking so damn slow because they’re just there to stroll and God knows why??). You also get snappy with the sales people and your daughter is saying, “take a deep breath, mom.”

After hitting two malls and the grocery store we finally came home where I set about cooking our Bahrain meal. I cooked traditional Bahraini chicken machboos. It was a recipe that was supposed to take a couple of hours – at least. I did it in an hour so you could say I made the Bahraini chicken Machboos express. I wasn’t in the mood to piddle around. And anyway, it had taken me long enough to find the spices for this recipe and I didn’t even find them all. The recipe called for black dried limes and I went to two Middle Eastern grocery stores and they didn’t know what I was talking about. One woman suggested it was a Chinese thing. I don’t think so, but what do I know. I then couldn’t find a buharat spice mix that's a main ingredient in chicken machboos and so I ended up making it myself by mixing all these spices together.

While I was stirring my chicken mixture over the stove, Julia thought I said I was cooking brains. She told John and Kevin we were having brains for dinner. The funny thing was, they just shrugged their shoulders like oh, brains for dinner.

“No,” I said, “We’re having BAH-RAIN for dinner!”

By 8 o’clock I was so damn tired I was close to tears. I wanted to relax. Go to bed. I needed a vacation, to anywhere. Bahrain was looking pretty good.

Traditional Bahraini Chicken Machboos

4 1/2 cups water
650g basmati rice
3 tomatoes
1 chicken
3 onions
1/4 cup coriander ( cilantro), chopped
1 green hot pepper, as desired
2 tsp buharat spice mix
1 1/2 tsp turmeric spice
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamon powder
2 garlic cloves
1 slice ginger root
3 TBSP butter
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 TBSP rose water
3 TBSP oil
3 tsp salt

Cut chicken in half ( or, if you want it express, buy pieces of chicken and cut it up in small pieces). Heat water and leave aside. In a small bowl, mix the buharat, turmeric, cumin and Cardamon together and add to the mixture 1 tsp of salt. Sprinkle half the spice mixture on the chicken.

Heat oil in large pan, fry onions, then add the pepper and black limes - you must make a hole in each lime. Add the chicken to the onion mixture and stir a few times. Sprinkle a tsp of cinnamon on the chicken and the rest of the spice mix. Cover the pan and cook for 3 min.

Add the garlic, chopped ginger, and tomato cubes to the pan and cover again for 3 min. Sprinkle the rest of the salt and pepper and pour in the water.

Cover the pan and let cook for about an hour or until the chicken is done (my chicken was already done by this point). Add coriander 5 min before you remove the chicken from the stock in the pan. While the chicken is cooking rinse rice and soak for 10 min in cold water. Remove chicken from the pan, put on a tray, brush it with oil and cinnamon and grill (or broil) until chicken in golden brown. Add rice to stack, stir, and cook on low heat until rice is done. Sprinkle rice with rose water and lemon juice and place butter pieces on top. Cover pan and cook for 30 min. Serve rice on serving plate and place chicken on top.

Buharart spice mix

2 TBSP ground black pepper
2 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP ground cumin
1 TBSP ground coriander
1 TBSP ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamon

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