Antoinette Addison and Habis Hasanat, Mishwar Jordan's fabulous cook
– by Habis Hasanat
Publisher's Note: During our recent Mishwar (Arabic for "to be away") journey in Jordan, we had the great pleasure of being accompanied by a fabulous cook, Habis Hasanat, and assistant cook, Awadh Hasanat. Preparing wonderful feasts over campfire – including one dinner assembled during a raging sand storm – their food was better than any restaurant meal we experienced during the trip. Habis generously agreed to share one of his specialties, and we extend our deep thanks to him for feeding us so well and sharing this uniquely Middle Eastern recipe with our readers.
Kabsa is a traditional Saudi entrée. The spicy marriage of cardamom and cinnamon is typical of Arabic dishes influenced by cultural exchange with India and Iran. This recipe is a Jordanian version of Kabsa, spiced up with lots of extra garlic and hot peppers, bay leaves and orange rind, garnished with parsley and nuts toasted in clarified sheep's butter (samna baladi). The sheep's butter gives the nuts a delicate, sweet aroma, but clarified sweet butter will do nicely if you can't find it.
To serve it properly you need a big round plate or pan that you can heap the rice and chicken onto, and garnish all together.
This is pretty spicy, but if you're going to cut back on hot stuff, cut the red pepper flakes and reduce the number of whole peppers – but keep a few whole peppers and the coarse black pepper for the other flavors they impart.
2 chickens, cut into pieces (quartered is ok)
¼ - ½ cup
+2 T Kabsa Spice blend (see below)
2 onions, coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
12 ounce can tomato puree
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, sliced into 1/2cm rounds
5-10 hot green chili peppers, whole
¼ cup coarsely grated orange rind (about 1 orange)
2 T whole cloves
10 cardamom pods, cracked
3 sticks cinnamon
5 bay leaves
1 T red pepper flakes (optional – or less, to taste)
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups long grain rice
1 can of whole hummus (chickpeas)
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup pine nuts
¼ cup samna baladi or butter
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Brush chicken pieces with olive oil and dust with salt, pepper and Kabsa Spices. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Brown the chicken lightly in the oil. Remove from skillet and set aside.
- Add onions and garlic to oil and sauté until it starts to soften. Add tomato puree and simmer for a minute or two, stirring it all together.
- Add tomatoes, carrots, peppers, orange rind, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay and red pepper flakes (if desired). Sauté another five minutes or so over low heat, and stir a couple of times to blend flavors.
- Add broth, return chicken to skillet, and bring to a boil. Stir the rice in with chicken and broth, turn the heat down to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- While the stock is simmering, melt samna baladi (clarified sheep's butter) or clarified butter in a shallow pan over low heat. When the butter starts to froth, add pine nuts and almonds and cook until the nuts start to brown – remove from the heat immediately, because the nuts will continue to cook for a little bit even after the heat is off.
- Chop the parsley and set aside.
- Add rice and chickpeas to chicken and broth and simmer, covered, another 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Add a little hot water if it goes dry before the rice is cooked.
- When the rice is cooked and all the stock absorbed, turn the whole pot out onto a round platter. Extract the chicken and arrange it on top of the rice. Sprinkle it all with parsley and crown by scattering the nuts all over the top.
Serve with cold yogurt in bowls at each place.
Mix well equal parts coarsely ground black pepper, turmeric, ground coriander, fennel, ground allspice, ground cardamom (if you do 1 t each, you will have the 2 T needed for the recipe)
Our trip to Jordan was organized by the luxury eco-tourism and adventure travel group, Mishwar Jordan, with the participation of Jordanian and American historians, archeologists, and botanists. Our tour included camping, amazing meals, hiking, cameling, and horseback riding in the wilderness (black-, white-, and rose-colored deserts); visiting Amman, Jerash, Wadi Rum, and Petra; and meeting Jordanians in different walks of life. Special thanks to Habis for preparing such delicious meals!