The Recipe

Iraqi Chicken and Rice

As Mona Galee, from Iraq taught Lindsay Sterling, in Westbrook, Maine, July 2011
Serves 6-8
Cooking time: 2 hours

For the chicken:
1 whole chicken, washed and split down the breast bone
3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1/4 onion, medium dice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp madras curry powder
generous sprinkle turmeric
1 loomi (toasted Persian lime)*
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp lemon pepper
1-2 Tbsp Kosher salt
6 green cardamom pods
1-2 cups water

For the Rice:
2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup Short Vermicelli egg noodles
2 cups rice
1/2 tsp bar timon spice mixture**
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup reserved seasoned chicken broth
3 cups water

*loomi is a small persian lime that's been soaked in salt water and then baked in the sun. They are hard, and range from tan to black in color. You use it whole in this application. It also comes ground into flakes. In Portland, ME, you can get it at Al Sindabad Market, 710 Forest Avenue. 

**bar timon spice mixture:
2 1/4 tsp whole cloves
1 full handfuls green cardamom pods
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp black pepper

Raisin and onion topping:
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 onion, medium dice
3 shakes cinnamon
1 shake turmeric
2 shakes salt

1. Get chicken started. Split whole chicken down the breast bone to open up the cavity. Rinse splayed chicken with cold water. Put the whole bird in a large soup pot with lid on medium high (she used a special pot she called a gidduh, but my soup pot worked fine). Add to the pot, 1/4 cup oil, and onto the chicken: garlic, onion, Madras curry powder, generous sprinkle of turmeric, toasted lime, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 Tbsp lemon pepper, 2 Tbsp Kosher salt, and 6 green cardamom pods. Let chicken cook with oil in spices with lid on for ten minutes, then add water until it’s 1 inch below the top of the chicken. Cook covered until chicken is cooked through (about 40 minutes).
2. Do some prep work while chicken is cooking, make the spice mixture for the rice, called bar timon. Blend in spice grinder, the biggest handful one can of green cardamom pods, 2 1/4 tsp cloves, 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp cumin, 1/2 Tbsp black pepper. Cover rice with water and strain three times so the water stop turning cloudy. Last time let sit in the strainer to drip dry for 20 minutes. In a small dish, cover the golden raisins with water to plump.
3. Get started on the rice. Once the chicken has cooked through in the broth, put the chicken on a platter to rest and strain and save the broth. Put 2 Tbsp vegetable oil back in the bottom of the emptied pot on medium high. Once hot, add vermicelli noodles and toast until they turn reddish brown. Add the rice, 1/2 tsp of the bar timon spice mixture (store what’s left for when you make this again), 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 tsp salt, stir and let the rice soak in the oils for a couple minutes, stirring. Then add 1 cup of the reserved seasoned chicken broth and enough water (about 3 cups) so that the rice is covered by 1/2 inch of liquid. Cook on high. Once the water has disappeared from the rice (ten minutes), then put a plastic bag on top of the pot opening, put lid over that, and turn to low heat for another ten minutes.
4. Now fry the chicken! Put on a long sleeve shirt. The hot oil can really splatter and you don't want it to land on your skin. When the rest of the meal is almost finished,  in a wok with hot oil 1/4 inch deep, fry the chicken that has drained and drip-dried. Flip it so that both sides of the chicken front and back are nicely browned. The combination of soft, boiled chicken with fried exterior pieces is divine!
4. Final touches. Make the onion and raisin topping. Drain water out of raisins. In a the smallest sauté pan you have, saute 1/4 onion (medium dice) in a little oil. Once soft, add raisins, three shakes of cinnamon, one shake turmeric, and two shakes salt. When all this soft and hot and the turmeric has colored the oil yellow, turn heat off. Make a flattened round mound of rice on a round platter. Put the whole fried chicken (or chicken pieces, if they’ve fallen apart) on the top in the center of rice. Sprinkle raisins and onions in a ring around the chicken.
Note: She served the chicken and rice as part of a full feast, with dolmas, salad, watermelon cubes, chili flake soup and lemon-mint savory yogurt drink. Here are the rest of the recipes if you wish to do the whole feast. I recommend trying the chicken and rice as a meal first, and then adding the sides for all-out feast the next time you try it.

Mona’s Iraqi Meal For Guests (full menu)
Beef and Rice Dolmas
Tomato Chili Flake Soup
Fresh Salad
Chicken and Rice
Salted Lemon Yogurt Drink
Watermelon Cubes

Chili Flake Soup
1/4 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small can tomato paste
dash red chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Madras curry powder
1 tsp salt.
In 4 quart soup pot, saute onion in oil. Add garlic. In a separate bowl mix together tomato paste, red chili pepper flakes, curry powder, salt and 1 1/2 cups water. Pour into garlic-onion mixture and cook for ten minutes.

Fresh Salad
Romaine Lettuce
Raw broccoli shaved
Tomato, diced
Cucumber, sliced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

Just toss it all together in a bowl.

Yogurt Drink
1-2 cups plain yogurt
1 tsp crushed dried mint
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp salt
2-3 cups water

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher. Refrigerate before serving.



Slice into cubes and serve on a platter.

Awesome Iraqi Beef Dolmas

(Mona prepared hers the day before and simply set them on the stove to cook when she began cooking the chicken and rice. Below is a recipe that I love for dolmas from another Iraqi woman - as I didn't see Mona make hers!)

1 16 oz jar of grape leaves and/or frozen whole cabbage head, leaves
2 lbs beef or lamb minced
1 cup uncooked Basmati rice
¾ cup tomato sauce
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried lemon (available in middle-eastern markets)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup Canola oil
4-5 carrots, peeled
Drain grape leaves. Rinse in fresh water. Peel and slice carrots into planks and line bottom of the pot (prevents dolmas from sticking). Soak rice in hot water for ten minutes and drain. In a large bowl, combine rice, beef, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and all spices. Place each grape leaf vein-side up so that smooth side is on the outside of each roll. Cut off any stem. Place 1 Tbsp of the mixture on leaf near the stem end. Roll top over once, fold ends in, and continue to roll away from you. Repeat with remaining leaves. Arrange rolled grape leaves in a pot, seam side down, tightly packed. Place each layer in opposite direction of previous layer, in a criss-cross fashion. For even cooking, try to have no more than 4 layers. Combine lemon juice and oil and pour over grape leaves. Top with water until approximately 1” below top layer. Place large plate on top, and a heavy weight on plate (a foil-wrapped brick works great). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes until rice is thoroughly cooked. Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes. To remove from pan, get serving platter out, drain off any remaining liquid if any, remove plate from pot, and turn over pot onto platter in one fluid motion so the packed dolmas sit like an overturned cake on the platter.
Beef dolma recipe courtesy of Catholic Charities of Maine and the woman who wrote it up for them.

Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2011