Machboos my favourite Bahraini dish

I was first introduced to Machboos through a colleague in Bahrain and instantly fell in love with it. However, she refused to give me the recipe, as some people do. In fact it used to be very common for most people to tell you that a recipe is secret and not for sharing. More so in the past than today, but until today many people still look at recipes as top secret and not for sharing.

I really wanted to learn how she made her Machboos because it is by far the best I have had, but never was lucky enough to convince her of it. Years later another Bahraini friend shared her recipe with me, which I have tweaked and worked and tweaked some more trying to achieve the flavours of the first secret recipe and never did! However, I did end up with this recipe which is slightly different but just as good 🙂

Give it a try, you will love it and so will your guests.


  • 1 Kg Prawns, shelled and deveined. Tails in tact
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 dried lime (lumy),
  • 1 ½ liters water
  • 2 tbsp DS Premium Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and sliced then caramelised
  • 3 cardamom cloves
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp rosewater
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped coriander
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cups long grain rice, washed and drained

Bring 1 ½ liters of water to the boil, add quartered onion, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, ground turmeric and sliced garlic. Squeeze the juice of the quartered lemon in the boiling water and drop the wedges in as well. Reduce the heat and allow the water to reach simmering instead of boiling. Add the shrimp shells and heads to the water and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain separately reserving the broth.

In a large pot, saute the minced garlic and coriander in the olive oil only until translucent. Add the finely chopped tomatoes, dried lime and rosewater then stir to coat. Once the tomato mixture boils, add the fried onions and stir. Top all with the drained rice, then add just enough of the shrimp broth to cover. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, continue to cook on high heat until the liquid is reduced and the rice is starting to show on the surface. Reduce the heat to low and leave to cook until all the liquids are absorbed and the rice is cooked through.

Meanwhile, Saute the shrimps in olive oil sprinkled with salt and black pepper.

To serve, pour the rice over a serving platter and top with the shrimps. Sprinkle all with finely chopped parsley and serve hot alongside a spicy salad or pickles.


  • You can adapt this recipe to chicken or meat, you just have to cook them through before adding to the rice – which means longer cooking while making the broth about 1 hour or until the meat is cooked through.
  • Classically these dishes are made with meats on the bone, however, feel free to use boneless meats. Meats on the bone usually give a richer, deeper flavour, way more flavoursome than boneless. If it is the presentation that bothers you, or fiddling with bones as you eat, then cook the meat on the bone in making the broth, then separate and discard the bones before adding to the rice.
  • Finally, traditional recipes will instruct that you cook the shrimps with the rice. I do not do that as the shrimps will overcook by the time the rice is cooked through. Instead I saute the shrimps in a skillet with olive oil and season only with salt and black pepper. Do not overcrowd the skillet with the shrimps, go in batches and cook only for 3 minutes or just until they start to get pink. The shrimps should be crunchy, once rubbery and dry they have been overcooked. Do this just before serving, then top the cooked rice with the shrimp or for a more authentic presentation, mix the shrimps with the cooked rice.  (Olive oil sauteed shrimps/prawns, sprinkled with herbs and a squeeze of lemon or lime are an easy and super fast nibble that can be served on their own when not used in this dish. But I assume you already know that!)

Food For Thought – “Real generosity isn’t lavish spending, it is thinking of others before yourself”


The world is beautiful, all its people are beautiful, all cultures equally important, and all the same in the end – all out there for us to explore…
Ramadan Kareem

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