Few smells and spices transport me to a place is quickly as Middle Eastern cooking can. Now, I have never been to the Middle East, but in my highly over active imagination, the aromas that wafted from my kitchen while grinding tonight's Arabian Spice mix and simmering a big pot of Fish Kabsa transported me to Saudi Arabia in a super magical way. Plus, my hands are totally stained yellow by the turmeric I knocked over, so you could say my body has been transported as well. No Star Trek transponder needed.
Cuisine in Saudi Arabia is heavily influenced by nomadic traditions that began with sheep and goat herders. Although the country is now well developed and most no longer follow the nomadic ways of life, traditional food continues to be an important part of Saudi life and customs. Dates, flat breads, hawayij (a spice blend) are all enjoyed along with grilled lamb, goat and chicken, falafel, humus, kabsa and of course, strong brewed coffee -- by no means an exhaustive list! The country now produces all of its own dairy and most of its vegetables, but strict Islamic principles dictate dietary restrictions of pork and alcohol consumption.
The Basics: Pollock, Cilantro, Garlic and Onions and Basmati Rice
Arabian Spice Mix - A Heavenly and Aromatic Blend
Fish Kabsa (Adapted from Food.com)
2 lbs. white fish, cut into medium chunks
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
2 cups basmati rice, soaked
3 cups water
1 tsp. vegetable bouillon or base
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 Tbsp. Arabic Spice mix (recipe below)
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan
1/4 cup cilantro
In a heavy, large pan, heat and add butter, onions and garlic and cook until tender.
Add Arabic Spice mix, blend well.
Carefully add fish and cook half-way on each side until lightly pink-white (about 1 minute).
Remove fish onion mixture from pan and set aside.
Add tomato paste, vegetable base to pan, cook a little and add rice and water.
Carefully place fish mixture back on top of rice.
Raise heat to high to bring to a full boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer.
Cook covered until rice and fish are cooked.
Arrange on platter and top with cilantro and pine nuts and serve with green salad.
Arabian Spice Mix (Adapted from Food.com)
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. black pepper corns
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. fennel seeds
Blend in a mortar and pestle until crushed.
Store extra in an airtight jar.
Final Assessment: A wonderful, one pot meal that scented the house with a heavenly aroma of spices. The dish was satisfying, healthy and the addition of pine nuts and cilantro was a really nice touch. Served along-side a green salad, this was an excellent meal. We loved it!
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