Iraqi Jewish Chicken – T’beet

T’beet (Iraqi word for staying over night)  is a stuffed chicken dish with rice and spices. It was the traditional Sabbath lunch of the Iraqi Jews. Two things makes this dish special and hence the name of the dish.  T’beet, staying over night, is referenced to the dish being cooked at a very low temperature over night; hence the chicken ‘stays overnight’ in the cooking pot.

Why is the chicken staying over night ? Because Jews are not allowed to cook on the Sabbath (Saturday) their day of rest.  It is said to be prohibited by Jewish law.

IMG_9307

IMG_5939

Why make this dish for a Saturday? Traditional Iraqi Jews would prepare this dish on Friday and let it cook all night and morning so it will be ready for their Sabbath / Saturday afternoon lunch, after prayer in the synagog. Plus since Sabbath / Saturday is a day of rest no energy can be consumed or used therefore no cooking can be done. So this is a solution to over come this obstacle. Plus a Sabbath meal has to be a bit special like Sunday roast for us Brits.

Apologies if I got the cooking on Sabbath wrong, but this is what I have been told by my former Iraqi Jewish neighbour in London Abu Yusuf.

IMG_1724

This is Aunt Souad’s garden in Baghdad. I had the pleasure to visit for the first time last year and again earlier this year. 

Iraq, until relatively recently, was a mosaic of different ethnic and religious communities. Iraqis shared common cuisine that modified slightly to suit each community or their access to ingredients. This dish has evolved a few times and I have eaten different variations of it. Nevertheless it maintains its Iraqiness by having the aromatic spices of cinnamon and cardamom and the slow-cooking method.

I have researched and tried a few recipes, I like Linda Dangoor  recipes from ‘Flavours of Babylon’ cook book.  I really think her take on boiling the chicken does save a lot of time. However, I didn’t boil the chicken for this recipe (I should have, to make the chicken more tender) I used a rice cooker instead and surprisingly I got a good result.

IMG_5939

Also if you prefer not to use a whole chicken and don’t like the idea of stuffing it, you can use cut pieces of chicken cooked in the same method without the stuffing of course. I did this once and tasted great. See photos at the end of blog post.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I do not have 18 hours or more to cook, do you? May I suggest you use a slow cooker to do this, or  boil the chicken (with spices before cooking it with the rice) like Linda Dangoor suggested.  If you have a rice cooker then follow my steps, if not using a normal pot on the stove, you just have to cook it longer on a low heat.

IMG_5858

Ingredient

1 whole chicken

3 cups white Basmati rice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 can or jar of chopped tomato (alternatively 2 large tomatoes)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoon rice spices or  mixed spice (if you don’t have this its not necessary)

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoon seasoning (salt and pepper)

 

IMG_5861

The Stuffing

1/2 cup  rice

3 table spoons of chopped tomato

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon seasoning

 

Method

Step 1-Wash and soak the rice in 2 separate bowls (one for the stuffing the other for cooking) for 10 min.

Step 2-Wash the whole chicken and rub it with spices inside and out.

Step 3-Mix all the stuffing ingredients and stuff the chicken well, then tie with string or using screwers / tooth picks bring the chicken together.

Step 4-In a pot with some olive oil place the whole chicken and cook each side till the whole chicken is golden brown. Then remove from the pot into a plate and let it rest.

Step 5- In a pot (oven proof pot) or rice cooker, heat the oil and sauté the chopped onion until transparent. Stir in the chopped tomato , tomato paste and spices and mix well. Then add 3 cups of water. Once the water is boiled add the washed rice, then the chicken. Place the lid on and let it cook on low heat. If using rice cooker you don’t have to do anything. It will cook by itself and be ready.

Not using a rice cooker but a pot? Then one the water  has evaporated from the pot you can place the entire pot in the oven for 1 hour 100C.  This is supposed to be a slow cooking dish !

Once the dish has cooked, place serving plate on the pot and tip it forward. This insures that the bottom of the pot come out on top. You should have a Ha’kakah, which  is the bottom crust of any rice dish in Iraqi cuisine. It is called Tah-tig in Persina (which means bottom of the pan)

IMG_5943

Like I mentioned above, you can cook chicken pieces instead of stuffing a chicken. Below are some photos that I took when I did pieces of chicken and BOILED it, few weeks back.

IMG_0588

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s