In preparation for the release of Terminator 4 Movie (I am a big fan) I made my poor wife watch the the first three movies within one week (we managed two so far, one to go) so we can go to watch it together in the cinema.
The sight of Linda Hamilton's hair in T1 gave me a severe attack of eighties nostalgia. All clothing items must be rolled up: long sleeves, short sleeves, jeans, the whole lot. Everything was over sized from sweat shirts to dodgy perm hairstyle. I was in my early teens towards the end of the eighties so I just managed to capture the "beauty" of that decade. I still remember my jeans jacket, neon T-shirt, acid washed jeans and a very bad hair style.
Bad style wasn't the only thing the eighties brought us Syrians. That period introduced a totally foreign dish to Syrian cuisine, Kabseh.
I was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there trough the eighties till I was 15 before we moved back to Syria. There was a huge exodus of Syrians to Saudi in the late seventies and early eighties caused by the oil boom in the Gulf and bad economical times in Syria. I can safely say that every Syrian family had at least a member moving to Saudi Arabia for a certain period of time time.
I remember when we used to go home on summer holiday we used to bring Basmati rice and Kabseh spices with us to cook a big family feast in my grandparents' house. We were not alone in that, every other Syrian family had similar occasions in the summer months. Slowly Kabseh became a stable dish on the Syrian table. It became so integrated in the cuisine that a Uni friend of mine, who was from another city, thought Kabseh is a traditional Damascene dish.
Kabseh is the national dish of Saudi Arabia. It is simple but extremely addictive. It is spicy rice pilaf served with meat. You can cook the meat with the rice or separately. I prefer the latter.
Two things differentiate Kabseh from any other Byriani-like dish: dry lime and the special spice mix of cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, galangal and more dry lime. You can buy ready made Kabseh spice mix from any Middle Eastern supermarket.
Here is my Kabseh recipe:
Basmati rice 1.5 cups
Chicken stock 1.5 cups
Water 1.5 cups
One medium Onion sliced
One chopped green chilli
Sliced pepper 1tbs
Sliced Carrot 1tbs
Kabseh spice mix 1tbs
Dry lime 4-5
Wash your rice and soak in cold water for 20 min.
Start by sweating the onions in vegetable oil. Add the chilli, carrot and peppers. Gently crush the dry lime to allow cooking water to get in. Add the lime with the spice mix to the pot. Grate your tomatoes or put them in a food processor then add them and cook for few minutes then add the stock and water and season well.
Drain the rice and add to the mix. Bring back to boil. Stir the rice once and turn the heat down. Let cook for 20 minutes.
Serve with grilled chicken and salad or yoghurt.