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Getting to know Qatar

In this newsletter we’d like to share some insights into Qatari cuisine. This is essentially eclectic and has been influenced by man countries including Iran, India, and North Africa. Typical fare includes Hummus; Tabbouleh; Mashboos: a meal of mutton cooked until it is incredibly tender, and served with spices and rice; Harees: soaked split wheat and meat, cooked for several hours; Margooga: meat cooked with vegetables and bread; and Madhrooba: rice, vegetables, and chicken stew. Seafood such as lobster, crab, king fish and red snapper is popular this is because traditionally the Qataris were known as seafarers. Meat is always Halal (prepared in accordance with Muslim rules).

Traditionally the people of Qatar do not use knives and forks when eating traditional food. The right hand should always be used when eating. Try to use only three or four finger to pick up food.

 

Fish plays a large part in Qatari culture, as the Qataris were traditionally fishermen, gathering food from the sea. Dates are also a very important food, and can be consumed at any time of the day. They are renowned for their high nutritional value and grow in abundance in the Middle East. A visitor should always be offered dates as a sign of courtesy.

 

Qatari desserts are normally enjoyed with a cup of Arabic coffee. Khabees is prepared using semolina, rosewater, cardamom, saffron, nuts, and dates. Lugaymat is another popular dessert, resembles a donut. This sweet treat consists of fried dumplings sweetened with honey. The Qataris also have a twist to coffee with Qahwa Helw. Translated as "sweet coffee", this beverage is coffee infused with orange, saffron, cardamom, and sugar, and usually served on special occasions.

How to Prepare Arabic Coffee

Originally the coffee beans were roasted on an open fire and prepared in a coffee pot (dallah), also over an open fire. Nowadays it’s prepared on a stovetop and transferred to a stylish thermos flask, where it’s kept warm for guests.

A good ratio is 1-tablespoon ground coffee per cup of water. If you like cardamom, 3 parts coffee to one part cardamom is good ratio to start, and you can adjust to taste. The cardamom can be ground with the coffee (the easiest method) or crushed cardamom can be added near the end of cooking. If you like extra cardamom, you can do both.

In addition to the cardamom, other flavorings are cloves (added toward the end of the cooking process) as well as saffron and rose water (added to the thermos flask). Some say you can use cardamom with cloves or with saffron and rose water.

Sugar and milk are never added. However, Arabic coffee is typically served with something sweet on the side, usually dates.

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons Arabic coffee, coarsely ground 1 tablespoon cardamom (or to taste) either ground or crushed with a mortar
  • 5-6 whole cloves (optional)
  • small pinch saffron (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (optional)

Method

  1. Bring water to boil in a dallah. if you don’t have one, simply use a medium saucepan.
  2. When the water boils, add the ground coffee (and ground cardamom if it’s mixed with the coffee). Boil for 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Add crushed cardamom and cloves—if you are using them. stir once and boil for another 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pre-heat a thermos flask with boiling water. Don’t forget to remove the hot water before adding the coffee.
  5. Remove coffee pot from heat, cover and let coffee grounds settle to the bottom for a minute. Do not stir.
  6. Add the rose water and small pinch of saffron to the empty thermos flask. Strain and pour the steaming coffee into the flask.
  7. Allow to seep for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Etiquette tip:

Cups must be held in the right hand - one never passes or receives items with the left hand in Arabic society. To signal you are finished, swirl the dregs of the coffee in your cup to signal that you have had your fill.

Recipe – Lamb Mashboos

Lamb Mashboos, was traditionally prepared by Bedouins with a freshly slaughtered sheep to feast a visitor. Traditionally, it is served in a large communal platter.

Contrary to Western methods of cooking meat, this dish is prepared by first simmering the meat in water, and then browning it in oil and spices. The stock is used to prepare the rice, and a flavorful garnish ( heshew ) and tomato sauce ( dakkous ) are served over the top before eating. Chicken machboos can be prepared in essentially the same manner, but of course cooking time is reduced.

Basic Dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 leg of lamb or 1k. boneless lamb
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 onion, cut in quarters
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 cups Basmati rice

Preparation:

Pinch of saffron threads soaked in 1/4 cup warm water

Wash a leg of lamb or large lamb pieces thoroughly and place in a pot. Cover with water and spices, and simmer one hour or more till the meat is tender. Add salt after half an hour. When meat is tender, remove the meat, and strain and reserve the stock.

While the meat is cooking, rinse the rice, leave to soak in cold water for 15 minutes, then drain well. Also prepare the heshew and dakkous.

In a separate pan, heat ¼ cup oil. Sprinkle meat with a teaspoon of ground cardamom, brown it in the oil and remove. To the remaining oil add the drained rice and 4 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer till all the liquid is absorbed. Pour saffron water over rice and top with meat. Cover well and warm on lowest heat for 15 minutes. Spoon rice onto a shallow dish, top with heshew and meat. Serve with dakkous. Serves 4-6.

 

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