Lebanese chicken and rice (riz ala’ dajaj)

A traditional Lebanese dish typically served for special occasions, this recipe exemplifies the importance of spices in Lebanese cuisine.


1cinnamon stick
2 tsp salt, or to taste
500g  chicken breast fillets
40 g butter
1brown onion, finely chopped
350 g coarse lamb mince
300 g(1½ cups) long-grain rice, washed and drained
½ tsp black pepper
½ tspLebanese mixed spices (see Note)
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup flaked/slivered almonds
½ cuppine nuts
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Lebanese salad, to serve


Place the cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 litre (4 cups) water in a medium-size saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, add the chicken and simmer gently for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the chicken to poach in the water for a further 7–10 minutes until cooked through. Drain, reserving the stock. When cool enough to handle, coarsely shred the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C.

To make the rice, place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and onion and cook for 5 minutes until the onion softens. Add the lamb mince and cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes until the lamb just starts to brown. Stir in the rice, black pepper, mixed spices and the remaining teaspoon of salt and cook for 2 minutes, tossing to coat the rice. Add 625 ml (2½ cups) of the reserved chicken stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10–12 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, arrange the pine nuts and almonds on two separate oven trays. Transfer to the oven and cook the almonds for 6–8 minutes and the pine nuts for 3–5 minutes until lightly golden. Set aside.

To serve, place the rice mixture on a serving platter and cover with shredded chicken. Top with almonds and pine nuts and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Serve with a salad.