Egyptian Hamam Mahshi or stuffed squab have been served for centuries. Squab is a small pigeon that is loved by many cultures including the Egyptians. It is not uncommon to see mud brick lofts which house the birds on the roofs all along the Nile. The birds were stuffed with a interesting grain called freekeh which is a cracked green wheat that has a unique flavor almost nutty. (I found that at my local middle eastern store. Bulgur or rice could also be used. If you would like to order some freekeh you can pick some up here
The Egyptian squab is a delicious dark meat bird, care should be taken not to overcook it. (I actually found the squab in my local Asian market in the freezer section.) Also, I added mine to my deep fryer for just a minute to crisp up the skin, it is not a necessary step, it could be done under the broiler as well. The crispy skin however, was outstanding. Known to be served on wedding nights as it is considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac, enjoy!
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- Squabs with giblets -- 4 (1-pound)
- Lemon, juice only -- 1
- Salt and pepper -- to season
- Butter or oil -- 3 Tablespoons
- Onions, finely chopped -- 2
- Ground cinnamon -- 2 teaspoons
- Allspice- 1 teaspoon
- freekeh, soaked 30 minutes in water to cover -- 2 cups (bulgur) can also be used
- Fresh mint, chopped -- 1 Tablespoon
- Parsley, chopped -- 1 Tablespoon
- Chicken broth -- 4 cups
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- oil for deep frying (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Chop the giblets finely and set them aside.
- Squeeze the lemon juice over the squabs, season them inside and out with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Heat the butter or oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium flame. Add the onions, chopped giblets and cinnamon, allspice and saute until the onions are cooked through and translucent.
- Drain the freekeh or bulgur and squeeze out any extra moisture. Stir the freekeh or bulgur and the mint, parsley and salt and pepper into the onions.
- Remove from heat and stuff about ¼ cup of the cracked wheat mixture into each squab. Set the remaining cracked wheat mixture aside.
- Sew the body cavity of each squab closed with a trussing needle and tie the legs together. Place the squabs, breast-side up in a large casserole dish or ovenproof pot.
- Pour 2 cups of the chicken stock over them and cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
- Place the dish in the oven and braise for about 1½ hours. Baste with the braising juices once or twice during this time.
- About ½ hour before you remove the squabs from the oven, bring the remaining chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan.
- Stir in the remaining cracked wheat mixture, cover tightly and reduce heat to low.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes, then remove from heat and let rest for about 10 minutes.
- When the birds are done braising either put them under the broiler to crisp up the skin or put them quickly in a deep fryer to do the same.
- To serve, fluff the reserved crack wheat with a fork and spread it over a heated serving platter. Remove the squabs from the oven and remove the trussing strings. Place the squabs neatly on the bed of cracked wheat and pour any braising juices over the squabs and wheat. Serve immediately.
- Hamam Mahshi Variations
- Stuffing Variations: Stir ½ cup of soaked and drained currants and/or ⅓ cup toasted pine nuts into the stuffing mixture for a fancier dish. Stir in a pinch of ground allspice, cloves or cardamom.
- Farrouj Mahshi (Stuffed chicken): Use 2 small (2-pound) chickens instead of squab and stuff each with ½ cup of the stuffing mixture. You may have to braised a bit longer to cook the chicken all the way through.