(Serves 4-5 persons)
I dedicate this recipe to the soul of my late mother in law, Um Faisal,
Mariam Bint Abdulla Al Hamer. May God rest her soul in Heaven. My
aunt ‘Um Faisal’ was a role model for Bahrain mothers, dedicated to
raising her children and instilling in them ethics and principals to ensure
that they grew up to be honest, productive citizens.
She was and still is a role model for Bahrain women with a heart full of
faith that blossomed with love and serenity. She has embraced us all: her
family, her relatives, her neighbours and her acquaintances. Every
Monday she opened her heart before her Majlis for us to gather around
The men of the family followed suit and opened a parallel Majlis on the
same day and in the same place.
As for Auntie Mariam’s machbous, or Al Hamer’s family Machbous as it
was called, it was the dish longed for every Eid (a holy day). In our Eid
feast, traditionally dominated by meat dishes, Auntie Mariam’s Shrimp
Machbous was special. Through this recipe, I aspire to save Auntie
Mariam’s Machbous from being lost. It was a very special Machbous,
made with her own touch and a lot of her love. The love distinguishing
that generation that will never come again.
For so many years, so many stayed up late preparing the ingredients,
and then woke up in the early hours of Eid day to prepare the Machbous,
so that it would reach all the houses before noon.
Auntie Mariam, may God rest your soul in Heaven. How we miss you!
How we misss your prayers for us and your wisdom that naturally
stemmed from your kind nature.
We pray to God to gather us all in Heaven, Insha Allah.
750g Shrimp (375g peeled)
Enough water to cover the shrimps
To Boil Shrimps:
fresh ginger, sliced
2 Cloves garlic, sliced
1 Small onion, sectioned
2 Green chillies, pricked
A few fresh coriander sprigs
2 Cinnamon sticks
3 – 4 Cloves
3- 4 Whole black peppers
3 – 4 Cardamoms, partially opened
A pinch of Bahraini fish spices
1⁄4 Teaspoon turmeric powder
2 Dried black limes, pricked
3 cm3 Fresh ginger
1-2 Green chillies
2 Cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon mixed Bahraini spice
1 Teaspoon fish spices
A few drops of lemon juice
A generous pinch of turmeric powder
A dash of chilli powder
1 1⁄2 Teaspoons salt
2 Cups 2 cm3 potato cubes
(About 2 medium potatoes)
2 1⁄2 Cups roughly chopped onion
3⁄4 Teaspoon black lime powder
3 1⁄2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 Tablespoons nikhi aeesh
(Yellow split peas) or black -eyed peas
4-5 Tablespoons sultanas
1⁄2 Teaspoons cardamom powder
3⁄4 Teaspoons salt
3⁄4 Teaspoons Bahrain spices
1/8 Teaspoon chilli powder
To Cook the Rice:
3 Cups basmati long grain rice
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 Cup chopped onion
1⁄2 Cup chopped coriander
1/3 Cup mung beans
A few saffron threads, soaked in
2 Tablespoons rose water
To Prepare Al Ferqa’ah (crispy onion):
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced onion
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1. In a small pot, place shrimps. Add enough water to cover them. On
a medium heat, bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, reduce heat,
remove the froth and add the shrimp boiling ingredients. As soon
as the shrimps are cooked, remove from heat and add salt. The
broth should be salty.
2. Meanwhile, boil the potato. As soon as it is cooked, add salt. Boil
each of the mung beans and nikhi aeesh separately in drinking
water* (not hard).As soon as they are cooked, add salt to taste.
Cook for a few minutes.
3. In a mortar, pound the spice paste ingredients together until a
homogeneous paste is obtained. Reserve 1⁄4 of the paste to be use
for rice preparation.
4. To prepare stuffing, in a medium pot stir 21⁄2cups of chopped onion
until it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle with water
and mix. Repeat the above step until the onions are caramelized.
5. Add 3 1⁄2 tablespoons vegetable oil and stir. Add the spice paste,
black lemon powder, nikhi aeesh spices and sultanas. Lastly, stir
in strained shrimps and strained potatoes.
6. Pack the stuffing to one side of the pot. Sprinkle with a little of the
rose water/saffron mixture. Cover and simmer for a few minutes
on low heat.
7. In a medium pot, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil. Stir in 1⁄2 cup
chopped onions and the spice paste reserved from Step 3. Add the
washed and strained rice, mung beans and stir until both are
coated with oil. Stir in 1⁄2 cup chopped coriander.
8. Add strained shrimps stock plus mung and nikhi aeesh stock, and
enough boiling water to add up to 5 1⁄4 cups of liquid. Season to
taste. It should be on the salty side. Return the pricked chillies and
black limes. Squeeze one lime and leave the other intact, add
9. Gently stir the rice once or twice and allow to boil uncovered until
most of the liquid is absorbed. Cover tightly. Place a metal sheet
beneath the pot and allow to simmer on very low heat for
10. Bury stuffing (shrimps mixture) in one side of the rice. Cover
and steam on low heat.
11. In a shallow frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons oil. Stir in the
sliced onion until crispy and evenly golden (Avoid burning). Pour
the oil and onion evenly on top of the rice. Sprinkle with rose water
and saffron mixture. Cover tightly. Place a metal sheet beneath
the pot. Allow to simmer on a very low heat for at least 30 minutes.
12. To serve, carefully remove the rice from the top of the shrimps
mixture. Place shrimps mixture in a separate dish. Fluff the rice
then serve in a large dish. Cover with shrimps, placing chillies and
the black lime on the top. Serve with tamarind Daqous (sauce) or
tomato daqous (page 69).