Week 76. Saudi Arabia. Kasba

Saudi Arabia

“Dinosaur food, dinosaur food, I’m in the mood for dinosaur food”

“Munch, crunch, where’s lunch, give me some dinosaur food”.

My 3 year old son is utterly hooked. It’s cute, but it’s driving me nuts. Everything is dinosaur related. What does he want for dinner? “Dinosaur bones”. What does he want to do tomorrow? “Hunt dinosaurs”. What did he dream of last night? You got it.

Most of the time it is pretty fun, but on my way to write this blog I stepped on one of the 75 (the last time I counted) tiny dinosaurs he has scattered all over the place. As I swore quietly, His response:

“It’s not just a dinosaur Daddy, it’s a Saichania!”.

“A what?” I replied, aggressively.

“A Saichania Dad. It is called that because it is beautiful”.

It didn’t look very beautiful to me, and the spines left a deep imprint into my heel. I wonder how many hours work I have had to do in the last six months to fund all the dinosaurs in this house.

He’s no genius though. He wants dinosaur bones for dinner. Bones. Not meat. Bones. Silly little chap.

This week I drew Saudi Arabia.

I couldn’t live there. No chance. It is highly religious, alcohol is banned, women are not allowed to drive (and therefore drive you home) and sex with strangers in the street could lead you to “chop chop” square…..where they regularly behead people. I’m sure there is a much softer side to the culture, but it isn’t easily accessible online and most of what I have read lead to a conservative culture, led by traditions formed hundreds of years ago. It’s a different mindset, but I couldn’t be so restricted. After a hard day a strong gin, no tonic, is something which helps me get through. It’s not approved by most, not very good for me, certainly not godly….but no one in England is going to chop my hands off for it.

Saudi Arabia is a very hot country, one of the hottest in the world, and I could absolutely deal with that. The weather in this country is getting laughable, but a really dirty forced laugh. The laugh a man makes just after he slit the throat of an ememy.

It’s British Summer time next week and today it is snowing. It’s so horrendous outside, with the arctic winds, that I am onto my fourth sore throat of the winter, and a vomiting bug is swirling up and down our street like autumn leaves in a tornado. We have all had it a couple of times. I’m finished with wearing a bloody scarf and waterproof shoes, I’m finished with taking ten minutes to get ready to leave a building and I’m finished with all my non-Brit mates (wife included) telling me how it’s better pretty much anywhere else than here. Come on summer, come here and help me out a bit.

Making this dish I had a bit of a fear. I bloody hate raisins in savoury dishes.

Post cooking the dish, I still do.

I also have a pretty strong dislike of cloves. Raisins are just too sweet. They don’t pollute the rest of the dish, but each time you bite into one you get an unnecessarily strong burst of sweet flavour, which I don’t mind with my breakfast cereal…but not with chicken. The cloves are just overly intense. I like what they bring to the flavour of a dish if they are very briefly exposed to a bubbling broth. This recipe called for the cloves to be left in for the duration and the result was it was too fragrant for me. I didn’t really like the dish as a whole. When I ate the chicken alone it was delicious and the spices had subtlety influenced it – but the sauce was too much. I wouldn’t do it again.

Recipe by Ya Salam Cooking (amusingly American in its terminology)

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup basmati rice, washed and rinsed
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 bay leaves
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
6 green cardamom pods, whole
5 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 black limes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cardamom, ground
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
4 hard-boiled eggs (optional)
pine nuts and raisins (optional)


NOTE: place basmati rice in bowl with water over it to expand, it will not cook and will stay hard unless you do this. Leave for 15 minutes at the least.
In an 8-quart stockpot on medium-high heat add onions, garlic and. Allow onions to turn golden. Add bay leaves, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks, black limes, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, ginger and ground cardamom. Blend well and allow to sauté for 30 seconds.
Add tomato sauce and chicken bouillon. Mix well until sauce thickens, reduce heat to low-medium. Add chicken allow to sauté for a 1 minute. Rotate chicken so that it gets all of the flavors. Add water until chicken is completely covered. Bring to a full boil then reduce to low. Cook for 35 minutes covered.
After the chicken has cooked reserve broth for rice. In a 2-quart saucepan, add rice and enough sauce from the chicken just so that the rice is covered. Bring to a boil then immediately turn heat to low and cook covered for eight to ten minutes. Meanwhile, why the rice is cooking turn oven on high broil. Add chicken to a roasting pan and broil for five minutes or until golden.

Add cooked rice to a serving platter with chicken arranged on top. Garnish plate with hard-boiled eggs, pine nuts, and raisins


One thought on “Week 76. Saudi Arabia. Kasba

  1. Gotta say I love your blog and your passion with cooking, and Kabsa is a very flexible and easy dish that’s why it’s so famous here in Saudi Arabia honestly you can put all the ingredients in a pressure cooker and it’s done! (No joke!) but all the spices are optional you can never eat the same Kabsa in different houses, it’s all up to what you like. About the raisins problem what my grandma does is she saute onion in a separate pan with a lot of oil in a medium heat till brownish (not burnt) and stir every 5 minutes and add raisins stir for a bit and that’s it.
    You should try Gorsan I can give you a family recipe or Kleeja hope you’ll love them.

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