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A Taste of Qatar: Chicken Machboos Recipe

by Shay AlShomous

Shay AlShomous Café is a favourite of royals, visiting politicians and celebrities. The owner, Shams Al Qassabi, shares with us, her recipe for this traditional Qatari dish.

Serves four


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 5–10 cardamom pods
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 3 finger-sized cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cloves
  • 2–3 bay leaves or curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Qatari machboos spice blend (available at Shay AlShomous or spice stores)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 dry black lemons, pierced with a small knife to help release the flavour (available in spice stores)
  • 3 cups white rice
  • 6 cups water
  • A handful of fresh coriander, chopped


  1.  In a large pot, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion until soft
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, curry leaves, Qatari spice blend and turmeric. Gently toast, stirring continuously, until fragrant, approximately two to three minutes
  3. Add the chicken to the pot with the spices. Add one chopped tomato and the two black lemons. Brown the chicken on all sides
  4. Add boiling water to the pot—enough to cover all the ingredients, and gently simmer for 45 minutes
  5. While the chicken is cooking, rinse the rice well and drain the excess water. Add fresh, cold water and allow to rest for 30 minutes
  6. After the chicken has been cooked, remove and place onto a plate or tray and then cover with aluminium foil
  7. Drain the rice and add to the large pot. Sprinkle in the handful of chopped coriander. Stir well and allow to cook for approximately 30 minutes
  8. In a frying pan, add one tablespoon of olive oil and gently saute the remaining tomato. Add the chicken and heat through
  9. To serve, pour the rice on to a large serving tray, place the chicken on top and garnish with the fried tomato