This month is very special to me because F and I got engaged four years ago. But every year I get confused if it was on 22nd or 23rd! :-P because his birthday too is one of the two days which contributes to the confusion. I am the worst person to remember dates! so much that I can’t remember if SRK’s birthday is on Nov 2nd or 4th??? (If you even took a second to think who is SRK, you don’t exist.)
This year, I checked F’s passport to confirm his birthday so the confusion is put to rest. LOL! Now there is a third event – Saudi National Day – a day for all the expats to remember why we are here and not anywhere else in the world! That one or many reasons will wipe away all the negativity we have about this country or its people.
For last year's National Day, I had prepared Kabsa referring to some random blog. Those days I was not into food blogging et al and so never bothered to check the authentic ways it is prepared. Now, having lived and travelled around KSA, I know that the Kabsa I had prepared was far from authentic. This year, I really wanted to plan ahead and make things easy for me and the blog but like every time I am rushing through cooking, clicking and finishing up this post...
I had shortlisted Kabsa or Mandi but F rejected both. Yikes! Now, you can't deny anything for a birthday boy, can we? Sat down for a quick research which actually took two days :-( and I zeroed on Saleeq(g). Can you imagine rice cooked in broth and milk? I was intrigued with the concept which made me finalize on Saleeg.
Saleeg is one of the traditional dishes of the Saudi, especially around Makkah and Tabuk region which is prepared during special occasions. Almost all the articles I read stated that it is a kid's favourite too, as they eat Saleeg without any tantrums. This rice dish is usually prepared by boiling the chicken to get the stock and then cook the rice in the prepared stock. Once the rice is cooked, milk is added and cooked further till creamy. Traditionally, Saleeg is served hot in large plates called Tabasi and the roasted chicken or meat is placed on top of the rice. You can serve with some Salata Hara like I did for a hint of tanginess but it is good as is too.
Unlike most of the Saudi rice dishes that use long grain or basmati, Saleeg is cooked with a combination of Egyptian and American rice. In other words, short grain rice that gets cooked quickly and gets creamy. Both the type of rice are available in ample yet I have used Jeerakashala (short grain aromatic rice of South-India) (which btw is part of my Lulu haul :-P).
Yields: Hmmm we finished the whole lot in one sitting. Serves 2 hungry souls.
For the Chicken Stock:
500 grams Chicken full legs (3 legs) (You can use mixed parts or boneless too)
6 cups of water
3 green cardamom pods
1" cinnamon stick
1 small piece of dried galangal root
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 medium onion, peeled and cut
salt to taste
For the Rice
1 and 1/2 cup of short grain rice, soaked for 20 minutes and drained
3 cups of prepared stock
2 cups of full-fat milk, room temperature
2 teaspoon fresh cream
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
To roast the boiled Chicken
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoon butter to roast
Prepare the Stock:
- Place the cleaned and rinsed chicken pieces in a stock pot and add enough water
- Bring the water to a full boil and then carefully skim the froth that appears on the top.
- Drop in the cut onion, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, dried galangal root, and cinnamon.
- Reduce the flame to medium to low and allow to cook for 30 minutes or until the water quantity reduces to half.
- Add salt and pepper and let it simmer for few more minutes before switching off
- Remove the chicken pieces with help of a tong and keep them aside in a plate
- Strain stock into a measuring cup. (this is to get rid of the whole spices and onions) The measuring cup will help you to determine if you have enough stock to cook the rice. Adjust it accordingly.
Prepare the rice
- In the same pot, add back 3 cups of stock and the drained rice.
- Bring to a full rolling boil, reduce heat to low and cover the pot
- Cook for 5 to 8 minutes never opening the lid.
- Open and add the milk, butter, and cream and give it a good stir
- Check and add enough salt and pepper and cook on low stirring every now and then
- Cook until the rice is creamy and thick not dry and sticky! If you feel it is dry, add some more hot milk and stir again
Roast the Chicken
- Meanwhile, heat a frying pan
- Add butter and roast the chicken until browned on both sides. (prepare this just before serving the rice)
- In a wide plate pour,/drop the prepared Saleeg, smooth the top and place the roasted chicken in the middle.
- Serve with Salata Hara, a very easy sauce where no cooking is involved!
In this version, I have not used mastic tear which was called for in most of the Saleeg recipe but luckily was an optional ingredient. My hunt for it is still on... Where are you mastic t(d)ear?
I had prepared this Saleeg yesterday for late lunch knowing that it serves two things - a treat for his birthday and a tribute to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia! :-)