You say kabsa I say kabseh

When I was young and we had guests coming over one of the dishes my mum always made was kabsa.  Serving platters loaded with spicy golden rice and chicken topped with almonds and raisins would take center stage on the table. My part in it was to chop the tomatoes,slice the peppers and grate the carrots. You can say I was mum’s sous chef lol.

I was also in charge of decoration and final presentation. I would use carrot and cucumber slices and arrange them something like this, or if I had time there would be more elaborate plans with tomatoes and mint involved.

Kabsa or kabseh is one of the traditional dishes served in the Arabian gulf area. It is a Unique mixture of rice (has to be long grain and you can use basmati), meat (chicken, beef, goat, lamb or even camel), spices and vegetables topped with nuts and raisins. The secret to Kabsa’s identity and taste is the blend of spices used in it.   black pepper, all spice, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg are some of the spices that lend their magic to make kabsa a special and memorable dish.

Today I am sharing my own  Kabsa recipe which is mildly adjusted from my mum’s and she makes awesome kabsa. I urge you to give it a try as is and from there you can adjust the spices, change the vegetables and make the recipe your own.

I cook the chicken in a pressure cooker to save time, if you don’t have it you can cook the chicken in a normal pot, it will just take a little longer.

Kabsa (Kabseh) recipe

2 cups basmati rice

1 onion cut into strips

2-3 tomatoes peeled and cut into cubes

1 big carrot shredded

1 green pepper cut into strips

1 tablespoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon powder clove

1 dried lime (loomi)

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons salt

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

To cook the chicken

1 chicken cut into 4 pieces (use bone in pieces for more flavor)

2 bay leaves

6-7 all spice berries (or 3/4 teaspoon powdered all spice)

1 stick  cinnamon(or 1/2 teaspoon powdered)

4-5 pods cardamom (or1/4 teaspoon powdered)

1 onion cut into quarters


Wash the rice 4-5 times discarding the water every time, drain and set aside.

In a pot or pressure cooker add the  chicken and add enough water until the level  is 2-3 cms above the chicken.

Add the bay leaves, all spice berries, cinnamon, cardamom and onion.

Bring to a boil and then lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes (if using a pressure cooker) if not you need to cook the chicken untill it is done.

To cook the chicken without the pressure cooker,start with thawed chicken pieces . Fill the pot about two-thirds full and place the chicken parts in the pot. Set the stove to medium and bring the water to a gentle boil. Then reduce the heat and allow the chicken to simmer. It takes 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the chicken parts.The chicken is done when you stick a fork or knife  in it and the juice runs clear.If  the liquids are red or pink..boil another 10 minutes. The ideal way to do it is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It is needs to reach 170 degree F (77C). Thighs take a little less time (around 35 minutes) than breasts  ( closer to 45 minutes)

In another pot add the olive oil and saute the onions over medium heat until they become almost translucent.

Add the carrot and pepper and stir for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and stil for 5- 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and begin to breakdown.

Add the spice and rice, stir for 2 more minutes.

Add the liquid you cooked the chicken in (you can either measure it, you need 2 cups for each cup of rice or you can add enough liquid to bring the level up to an inch or 2-3 cm above the rice)

Nestle the chicken pieces between the rice.

Cover and cook over low heat until the rice absorbs all the fluid.

Keep the pot covered and allow to set for 15-20 minutes

Uncover,fluff the rice with a fork.

To serve garnish with almonds and raisins that you have fried in oil.

Don’t discard the oil, you can drizzle it over the kabsa to add a double dose of flavor because it will be infused with almond and raisin.