Iraqi Jews serve rice-stuffed chicken, called t’beet, for Shabbat lunch. Like cholent and hamin, the dish is cooked at a very low temperature for many hours (typically overnight) until the chicken is falling off the bone and the spiced tomato rice is deeply infused with savory flavor. It also makes lovely picnic fare.
The dish is seasoned with baharat, a multipurpose spice blend used across the Middle East, including in Israel, to flavor meat, vegetable, and rice dishes, as well as soups and stews. Like most blends, the recipe for baharat varies from cook to cook, but typically includes some combination of black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and coriander.
Reprinted with permission from The Jewish Cookbook, by Leah Koenig (Phaidon Press, 2019).
For the chicken and spiced rice:
• 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
• 2 cups basmati rice
• 5 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 2 Tbsp tomato paste (purée)
• 1½ Tbsp baharat (recipe below)
• ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
• 1 can (14½ oz) diced (chopped) tomatoes, drained
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 whole chicken (about 4 lb.), patted dry
• 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
For the baharat:
• 2 Tbsp sweet paprika
• 1½ Tbsp ground cumin
• 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
• 1 Tbsp ground coriander
• 1½ tsp ground allspice
• 1 tsp ground cardamom
• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• ½ tsp ground cloves
• ½ tsp ground nutmeg
Note: Makes 1/2 cup. Can be stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid for up to three months.
- Make the baharat. Combine the paprika, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg and shake or stir to combine.
- Fill a large saucepan with water and 2 Tbsp of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, add the rice, and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the rice is partway cooked, 5–7 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process, then set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp of oil, the tomato paste, baharat, 1 tsp salt, and pepper. Add the parboiled rice, drained tomatoes, onion, and garlic and stir to fully combine. Spoon as much of the rice and tomato mixture into the cavity of the chicken as possible, then tie the legs together with kitchen twine. (Some cooks sew up the cavity with a needle and kitchen thread, but that step is not necessary.)
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
- In a Dutch oven (casserole) or other large ovenproof pot with a lid, heat the remaining 3 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the stuffed chicken all over with a little salt and pepper, then add to the Dutch oven and sear, carefully turning as necessary, until browned on all sides, 10–15 minutes. Spoon the remaining rice and tomato mixture around the chicken, pour in the stock, and bring to a boil.
- Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook until the chicken is very tender and the rice is beginning to brown, 8–10 hours. Serve hot or warm.