William Shakespeare wrote, “tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers”.
I bet if he ever had a chance to eat middle-eastern food, he’d be licking all his fingers clean. The food in Middle-east is as lavish and glamorous in taste and presentation as the life of Middle East itself.
I come from an Indo-Pak background and am accustomed to the heat of spices of green chillies and curry masalas
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Indo-Pak food but I’ll trade for Middle-eastern food any day. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, food such as Shawarma, Kabsa, Mandi, Muttabaq, Falafil were our go-to meals when mom just wanted to take a day off from cooking.
The world renowned 11-spice Al-Baik is a pioneered innovation of Saudi Arabia and no fried chicken in the world – be in competition would be far-fetched – can come close to being as succulent as that.
Al-Baik takes the crown, hands down. I am without a doubt a true patriot of Middle-eastern food, as Kin Yutang says, “what is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child”.
This brings me to Mandi. All my childhood, Mandi made me the happiest. This recipe is my inspired take on the original recipe and it’ll forever hold my heart, not just because it’s Mandi, but because my whole beautiful childhood is connected to it.
Every time I make this, I fall victim to a gush of memories : growing up in the glamorous world of Middle-east. It’s the kind of food I cherish; these are gifts “and should be treated reverentially, romanced and ritualized and seasoned with memory”. (Chris Bojalian, Secret of Eden).
Mandi is widely popular in the Middle East and parts of Europe. It’s traditionally made with Lamb, but I make it with Chicken because I’m a big Chicken fan (I say that proudly!).
I serve this with what I call “A Cocktail of Rice” because I infuse the rice with Mandi spices and a bit of Nandos peri peri sauce just to give it a little bit of a kick. Serve this with some onions and tomato sauce and you’ll be licking your plate clean.
What can I say, I take my meals – especially Middle-eastern meals – very seriously. If I’m meeting two cultural flavors together, I make sure their harmony is enticing; enticing enough to marry varied cultural flavors together coherently.
I agree with Oscar Wilde when he said, “I hate people who don’t take their meals seriously, it’s so shallow of them” (Importance of being Earnest), and even though it’s not authentic per se it will give you a run for your flavors, very seriously.
And isn’t that the most important of all?
One Note: please do not feel intimidated by the spices and the cooking method of the dish.
It may seem extremely difficult to make, it really isn’t. Take it from me, I bake this twice almost every month. Once you have marinated and put your chicken in the oven: the oven does all the work for you.
The rice is super quick to make and doesn’t require a lot of effort. So, if you read the ingredients and decide not to go through with, I strongly urge you try it at least once to see how easy it is. You will never know until you don’t try it.
As you bake this, your whole house will be engulfed in Middle-eastern aromas. As soon as the chicken comes out of the oven the fragrance hits you hard; you’ll be salivating before you know it.
The proud crisp exterior with its moist interior invites you. What completes this dish is the onion served as salad with it. The sharpness of the onion parallel to the piquant collage of flavors of the rice and chicken, enhances the sapid taste of the dish.
This is one good-looking dish with succulent flavors. So, go on and have a soiree.
How It’s Done: The Recipe
1 whole chicken with skin
Mandi Spice Mix
1 tbsp Coriander seeds
1 tbsp Cinnamon stick
1 tbsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Cloves
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tbsp cardamom pods
1 dried Lemon (if you can’t find one, omit it)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tbsp Mandi Spice Mix
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Parsley
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Butter
1 bunch of Vine Cherry Tomatoes
4 tbsp Oil
1 Onion chopped
1 Green chilli chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaf
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Ketchup
2 tbsp Nandos Peri Peri sauce
1 tbsp Mandi Spice Mix
Handful of Parsley
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 cup Rice
How It’s Made: The Method
- Prepare the Mandi Spice Mix
- In a fry pan, dry roast the cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cloves and the dried Lemon (if you cannot find the dried Lemon just leave it out).
- Once the spices have roasted put them in a grinder and blitz them all together into a powder form.
- Last add the turmeric to it. Put it in a jar for use.
- Prepare the Mandi
- Pre-heat the oven to 180* C.
- Wash and pat dry the chicken.
- Rub the chicken with salt, black pepper, dried parsley, oregano and thyme, Mandi Spice Mix, lemon juice and butter.
- Leave to marinate for an hour.
- Place the chicken in a kitchen foil and add the vine cherry tomatoes on each side (this again is optional, you can just place a single small tomato in if you can’t find cherry tomatoes).
- Wrap the chicken like an envelope and seal it to make sure no steam escapes.
- Bake in the oven for an hour.
- After an hour, take the Chicken out and remove it from the foil and place it into another baking tray.
- Take a few dollop of butter and drop them on top of the chicken.
- Place the chicken back into the oven for another 10 minutes, preferably under the grill, to make the chicken crust crispy.
- Now, Remove the tomato from the foil and place it in the blender.
- Carefully pour all the juices, released from the chicken, into the blender with the tomato.
- Blitz it together. This is your Mandi sauce to serve Mandi with.
- Prepare the Rice
- In a cooking pot, heat up the oil and add chopped onions, chopped green chillies, cinnamon, cloves and bat leaf. Saute the onions until light soft. Do not brown the onions.
- Add the carrots and green bell pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of water to the pot.
- Add salt, ketchup, Nandos Peri Peri Sauce, Mandi Spice Mix and Parsley and let it come to a boil.
- Add the washed rice and let it cool until all the water has evaporated and the rice is almost done.
- Turn the heat to low and steam the rice for another 10-15 minutes.
- Serve the Mandi with the rice, Tomato Mandi Sauce and Onions.
How You Eat
There’s no clear-cut manner for you to sink your teeth into this sumptuous meal, but I advise you to share it with your loved ones.
Food speaks the language of love, and whatever I make is out of love for my family.
You can enjoy this dish whenever you want, whether it’s on your own time or among your most favorite people.
Remember, there’s a difference between eating and savoring – my Mandi will teach you to how to experience this!
Sumee is an award-winning Food Blogger whose journey into food began with family. Having grown up in the Middle East, she now resides in Europe with her husband and children.
Her brand of food is a marriage between three cultures of the West, Middle East, and Subcontinent. Sumee’s recipes are made with “a touch of impatience” to accommodate the fast paced requirements of a mother juggling responsibilities.