Quzi (Arabic: قوزي), also called qoozi or ghozi or al-quzi or al qawzi is one of the most popular dishes of Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Turkey.
It is prepared with rice and lamb that is cooked for a very long time, and is garnished with almonds, raisins, potatoes and eggs.
How is the quzi prepared?
In Iraqi cuisine, the authentic quzi is usually prepared by stuffing a whole lamb with rice, angel hair, vegetables, spices, raisins and almonds and slowly baking it in the oven.
In some countries in the Middle East, the preparation is buried in a submerged oven, a pit containing coal to give it a smoky taste.
There are many variations to this technique, such as in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where it is called madfoon (meaning “buried”) and where everything is wrapped in foil and kept warm.
Another variant is called haneeth and it is cooked inside a hot taboun (bread oven) and can be found in most countries of the Middle East, as well as in the Horn of Africa, and even in North Africa.
Apart from all these cooking techniques, the quzi prepared with pieces of lamb and not with a stuffed lamb is becoming more and more common and it is a more practical adaptation of the authentic technique. It is nowadays practiced by the majority of Iraqi chefs.
The lamb must be well cooked and browned, that is almost completely detached from the bone.
For a very long time, the entire land area known today as Iraq was the equivalent of ancient Mesopotamia, also known as the fertile crescent, as it lies between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. The history of Mesopotamia began in the early Neolithic and ended in late antiquity.
Many dynasties and empires reigned over Mesopotamia. From the Sumerians (around 3000 BC) to the Assyrians (9th to 7th century BC), before reaching the Muslim domination of the Abbasids (750 AD).
The caliphs exercised their power until 1258, the year of the Mongol invasion, and transferred the capital of the empire from Damascus to Baghdad.
Iraqi or Mesopotamian cuisine has a long history dating back around 10,000 years. Traces found in ancient ruins in Iraq have revealed recipes prepared in temples during religious festivals and are considered to be the first cookbooks in the world.
The former Iraq, or Mesopotamia, was the site of a sophisticated and avant-garde civilization, in all areas of knowledge, among them the culinary arts.
The roots of the Baghdad Caliphate’s cuisine were partly inscribed in the culinary traditions of Persia. Under the Abbasids, many converted Iranians reached the highest positions of the state, imposing their customs and traditions.
In the kitchens of the courtyard, cooking was transformed into art. The dishes were rich in the most expensive ingredients, in sophisticated preparation techniques such as honey crystallization, smoking, and preserves. They were also rich and in spectacular presentations in shimmering colors thanks, among other things, to saffron coloring.
The meat of young fattened animals, roasted or fried, often served with sugar or candied fruit, was much appreciated.
Rice spread throughout the empire, as well as sorghum, sugar cane, eggplant, spinach, banana and some citrus fruits. The production of spices in the Far East, such as pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom has also developed.
At the beginning, many of the recipes were passed on orally or in writing, and it was only later that Muhammad Al Baghdadi, a scholar of the 13th century Abbassid gastronomy, left a more organized testimony. His most outstanding work is kitab al tabeekh (meaning “cookbook”), which was written in 1226.
Today, Iraqi cuisine is rich in strong flavors due to the use of many spices, a culinary tradition typical of all Arab cuisines, such as saffron (or sometimes turmeric due to cost reasons) and mint, that enhance the flavor of daily dishes such as lamb, mutton, goat, beef in addition to poultry.
Generally, the meat is cooked and served with vegetables and rice while the appetizers are characterized by the classic mezze common to the entire Middle Eastern region, such as labneh, hummus, tabbouleh, mujaddara, or the popular dolmas.
The dishes are often accompanied by samoon bread, traditionally baked in a wood oven or on hot stones.
This recipe is validated by our expert in Iraqi cuisine Nawal Nasrallah. An award-winning researcher and food writer, Nawal is the author of the definitive cookbook on the Iraqi cuisine Delights from the Garden of Eden.
- 4 lb lamb meat (shoulder or leg), cut into pieces, with bone
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 quarts boiling water
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 dried limes (noomi basra)
- 2 pods cardamom
- 2 cloves garlic , pressed
- 3 cups basmati rice
- 2 cups cut fideos (or angel hair)
- 1 onion , chopped
- 2 quarts boiling meat broth (from cooking the lamb)
- 1 large carrot , cut into small cubes
- 4 tablespoons peas
- 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground clove
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 2 dried limes (noomi basra)
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- Vegetable oil
- 5 oz. blanched almonds
- 5 oz. raisins
- 1 onion , chopped
- 2 hard-boiled eggs (optional)
- 1 lb. small boiled potatoes (optional)
- Vegetable oil
- In a large Dutch oven, heat 4 tablespoons of oil over medium heat and cook the meat on all sides for 5 to 7 minutes or until browned.
- Add boiling water.
- Then add bay leaves, cardamom, garlic, and dried limes. Season with salt and mix well.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours.
- Drain the meat from its juice and place it in a dish.
In a Dutch oven with two tablespoons of oil, brown the meat on all sides for about 10 minutes.
- Set aside.
- Wash the rice and let it drain in a colander for 5 minutes.
- Add 4 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a large Dutch oven and heat over medium heat.
- Add the onions and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the carrot, peas, cardamom, chili, cinnamon sticks, cloves, black peppercorns, and dried limes. Season with salt and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the rice and fry over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add 6 cups of strained meat broth and stir well.
- Cook rice over medium heat until all the liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
- In a large saucepan, heat 5 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.
- Add the cut fideos and sauté, stirring constantly until golden brown.
- Add the remaining meat stock, season with salt slightly, and cook the fideos for 5 minutes over high heat.
- Drain and set aside.
- In a pan, cook 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat.
- Sauté the onions for 15 seconds then add the raisins and mix well.
- Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside.
- In another skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.
- Add the almonds and fry until golden brown. Drain, season with salt and set aside.
- In another pan, heat 5 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.
- Sauté the potatoes, stirring regularly until golden brown.
- Drain and reserve.
- In a large serving dish, add the rice first.
- Then sprinkle the rice with the fideos and spread the meat over it.
- Sprinkle with potatoes, onion mixture and raisins, almonds and hard-boiled eggs.
- Serve hot.