Recipes from Qatar
The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Qatari!
A plate of delicious Thareed. Image by Photon.
With Ramadan soon approaching, many Qatari women are whipping out their cookbooks and practising their traditional culinary skills in preparation for this holy and festive season.
Learning how to cook traditional Qatari meals has become increasingly popular with younger Qatari women who consult their mothers, aunts and grandmothers for centuries-old recipes and are re-discovering themselves, their culture and their heritage through cooking - instead of leaving it to the housemaid or cook.
While in the days before oil Qatari people had to make do with what foods were locally available or imported from neighboring Gulf countries, Iran and the Indian subcontinent, today, rapid modernization and globalization means that every type of cuisine imaginable is now available in Qatar, from French gourmet eateries and Japanese sushi restaurants to Mongol barbeque houses.
And with Hardees, Burger King and MacDonald's outlets on practically every
street corner, fewer and fewer of the new generation of Qataris are
eating traditional Qatari dishes with their families at home, and are
opting for unhealthy, fast food alternatives.
So it is good to see these young Qatari women, and even young Qatari
men, getting hands on in their kitchens, while, at the same time, preserving
an important part of the Qatari culture.
As we learnt in Mohana Rajakumar's article on Qatari cuisine, the main meal of the day in Qatar is lunch, and many Qataris return home from work at lunchtime to eat a meal called machboos with their families, a spicy meat (although chicken and fish can also be used) dish served over rice . Qataris usually eat machboos served with green salad, natural yoghurt and laban (strained milk). I know many Qataris who eat machboos every single day for their lunch, and when I ask them if they ever get bored of eating the same lunch every day, they always reply with the same answer: "We love machboos and we never get tired of eating it!"
In the spirit of preserving Qatari culture and of the upcoming holy month of Ramadan, I thought I might share the following recipes for popular traditional Qatari dishes with you.
Difficulty Level: Easy
Saloona is a mildly spicy vegetable and meat broth which can be eaten on its own or with rice. For this recipe we are going to use chicken, and I will explain how to cook the rice.
What you will need:
- 1 kilo of chicken (cut into thighs, breasts and legs)
- Courgettes, cauliflower, carrots and potatoes, chopped into small pieces
- Basmati rice
- 4 diced onions
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed and ground
- Dry coriander, chopped
- 3 chopped tomatoes
- 1 small packet of tomato puree
- 3 chicken stock cubes
- Black pepper
- 6 cups of water
1. Fill a cooking pot around half way with water (approximately 6 cups) and leave to boil.
2. Add the chicken to the water followed by pinches of salt, black pepper, and turmeric and leave to cook for around half an hour.
3. In another pan, put in 3 tablespoons of ghee and leave to melt. Follow this by adding two of the four diced onions, crushed garlic, chopped tomatoes, chopped vegetables and tomato puree and stir. Leave to cook for around fifteen minutes.
4. Once the fifteen minutes are up, add the mixture in the pan to the chicken broth in the pot and follow this by adding two chicken stock cubes. Leave to cook on a low flame for ten minutes.
5. Then add the coriander to the mixture and allow to cook on a low flame for another ten minutes.
6. Now you have finished making the chicken saloona. The whole process should take 45 to 50 minutes.
7. To make the rice, first put your desired amount of rice into a cooking pot and fill the pot with water so that the water just about covers the rice. (Do not use too much rice because it will expand in the water.) Leave the rice to soak for half an hour.
8. Drain the rice and re-put it into the cooking pot with water so that again it just covers the rice, and leave to cook until the water boils.
9. In another pan, add two to three tablespoons of ghee and allow to melt. Add your two remaining diced onions along with a pinch of salt and stir until the onions are a golden color.
10. Transfer the onions to the rice in the pot. Add the remaining chicken
stock cube and stir into the rice. Leave the rice to cook on a low flame
for another ten minutes. By then the water should have evaporated and
the rice be ready.
Difficulty level: Medium
A Ramadan favorite (and mine too!), thareed consists of mixed vegetables cooked with lamb in a spicy broth served over thin pieces of wafer-like bread. It is most famous for being the Prophet Muhammad's favorite meal.
What you will need:
- 1/2 kilo of lamb (preferably diced into cubes)
- Courgettes, potatoes, green beans and carrots (chopped up into small pieces)
- 15 pieces of wafer thin bread
- 2-3 onions, diced
- 2-3 large tomatoes, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and ground
- 1 packet of tomato puree
- Spices (Black pepper, ginger, turmeric, dry coriander, cardamom, cinnamon)
- 2 stock cubes
- 4 liters/6 cups of water
1. Once you have got all your ingredients ready, the first thing you need to do is put three big table spoons of ghee into a cooking pot and once the ghee has melted, put your diced onions and crushed garlic cloves into the pot and stir.
2. Add small pinches of black pepper, ginger, turmeric, dry coriander, cardamom and cinnamon to the pot, as well as some lemon, and keep stirring. (Be careful not to add too much or it will be too spicy and overpowering!)
3. Next, add to the pot your lamb cubes with a pinch of salt and keep stirring until the lamb starts to cook.
4. Follow this by adding your diced tomatoes, tomato puree and stock cubes with a splash of water and stir the mixture.
5. Every so often add more water, but not too much, and keep stirring.
6. Then it is time to add your chopped up vegetables and stir them into the mixture for around fifteen minutes until they look like they have cooked. The whole process should take 40 minutes to an hour.
7. Now you have finished the saloona, which is the broth.
8. Meanwhile, you need to prepare the bread. First, in a frying pan, steam some diced onions, adding a splash of water and then 3 spoons of ghee. Add just a tiny pinch of coriander, cardamom and lemon to this mixture and then pour it into a large serving dish.
9. On top of this mixture you need to break up the wafer thin bread and arrange it in layers covering the entire dish.
10. Once you have done this, transfer the saloona on top of the bread
so that the bread is soaked by the saloona, and serve.
Hey presto! You're done!
Note: For vegetarians, you can make a vegetarian thareed using the same ingredients and instructions minus the lamb.
Difficulty level: hard
The first time I tried harees I had no idea what to make of it. But while mixing wheat with meat sounded like a bad idea, it actually tastes delicious. Harees is a filling dish consisting of ground meat and wheat which is cooked together until it becomes a puree. Lamb, chicken or fish can be used. For this recipe, we are going to use chicken. It takes a long time to cook; you will need to free yourself for up to six hours!
What you will need:
- 2-3 cups of ground wheat
- 1kilo of boneless, skinless chicken, diced
- 2 chicken stock cubes
- One large chopped onion
- Two tomatoes
- Spices (black pepper, turmeric, cumin)
- Cooking oil
1. Start off by leaving the ground wheat to soak in a pot of water for a couple of hours. Many people advise doing this the night before and leaving overnight.
2. Fill a medium-sized cooking pot around halfway with water and leave to boil.
3. Once the water has started to boil, add a teaspoon each of salt, black pepper, cumin and turmeric. Add two tablespoons of cooking oil along with the chopped onion and two tomatoes. Crush the chicken stock cubes and add to the water.
4. Drain the wheat and put into another cooking pot. Pour the above mixture over the wheat so that it just covers/soaks the wheat. Leave to cook for fifteen minutes; it eventually should look like a whitish puree.
5. After fifteen minutes, add the chicken to the pureed wheat.
6. Cover the cooking pot with the lid and leave to simmer on a low flame for three to four hours. Check regularly and add water if needed.
7. Eventually, the extra water should evaporate, the chicken will become so soggy it breaks up, the wheat and chicken mixture will look like a thick white paste and so the harees should be ready. Add lemon and serve.
Difficulty level: easy
Algeemaat are traditional Qatari sweets which look like small sticky balls of dough and are quite easy to make. I can easily devour a plateful!
What you will need:
- 2 cups of flour
- 2 tablespoons of powdered milk
- 1 large spoon of sugar
- 1 large spoon of yeast
- 2 large spoons of custard
- 1/4 spoon of saffron
- 1/4 spoon of cinnamon
- 2 cups of milk
- 1 cup of warm water
- A pinch of salt
- Cooking oil
1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl (except for the cooking oil) and mix to produce a dough like substance. Leave to rise for around an hour.
2. Roll the dough into small balls.
3. Fry the balls in a pan of oil until they are golden colour and crisp.
4. Drain, cover in syrup and they are ready to eat!
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