Kabsa, tomato-cucumber salad, and Shiraz wine

Jeddah race dinner (well, made after the race)

I’ll admit that I’ve become a bit of a Formula 1 fan over the past few years, to the point that yes, I pay for the full F1 streaming subscription so I can watch ALL of the race lead-up content* as well as archived races when it isn’t a race weekend**.

So yeah, you could say that F1 has become an obsession for me.

Another obsession fascination of mine is world travel and culture. While I have my passport and desire to see the world, alas time hasn’t necessarily been on my side. So I do a lot of armchair travel, and F1 is great for that. Heck, the 2024 season has 24 races around the world, from the Middle East to North America to Europe to Asia to Latin/South America.

And then I had a thought: what if I learned about the countries where the races are held (hello, Bahrain and Azerbaijan!)? And what if I learned through their food?

Thus my version of an “F1 Cookbook” was born.

Unfortunately, I had this thought after the first race (Bahrain), but not to worry! I vowed to start with Race #2: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A little research informed me that the national dish of Saudi Arabia is Kabsa, a one-pot rice dish with meat, nuts, raisins, and a whole host of warming spices (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and more). Round that out with “Arab Salad” (standard tomato-cucumber chopped salad) and some baklava and we’re good!

A quick stop at the local Middle Eastern market saw me trundling home with a jar of kabsa spice blend***, basmati rice (brown, which will play into the story), veg (cucumbers, carrots, parsley), a package of pistachio baklava****, and THE BEST RAISINS EVER (seriously).

With the able assistance of my infinitely better half (note: he did the cooking; I did all the sous-cheffing and the tomato-cucumber salad), after, oh, about 5 hours we had ourselves a Dutch oven’s worth of Kabsa, along with a house that delightfully smelled like a Middle Eastern restaurant. There were slight hiccups with the rice: 1) using brown basmati rice increased the cooking time, and 2) mixing up the the burners so that the “medium high” setting ended up under the sauce pan and the “keep it barely noticeably warm” setting ended up under the rice. Thankfully, this was noticed in time before the sauce burned. Everything turned out all right, if slightly delayed.

The final dish was a complex combination of savory and sweet (those raisins packed a punch!), smooth and crunchy (thank you to the oil-toasted nuts), with a little heat and gentle hints of warm desert winds and camel snorts (in a good way). The hot rice dish contrasted nicely with the light and cool chopped tomato-cucumber salad. We enjoyed a lovely Shiraz with it, which accentuated the raisin notes from the Kabsa, and then finished the evening with the pistachio baklava.

It was a sweet ending, much like F2 driver Oliver Bearman’s performance as a last-minute replacement for Carlos Sainz for Ferrari*****. The 18 year-old British kid got one practice session, then placed 11th in qualifying, AND THEN finished 7th in the race, scoring more points in one race (and his first F1 race!) than Haas’s Kevin Magnussen or Williams’ Logan Sargeant****** did in the entire 2023 season.


For an experiment and test of concept, I’d have to say this “F1 Cookbook”concept worked really well, and I’m curious to explore more new dishes.

Next race: Melbourne, Australia (March 24). And no, there will be no ‘shrimp on the barbie’.


*The preview of the weekend show, all of the practice sessions, preview of the qualifying session, then the qualifying session, then the post-qualifying session review, the pre-race show, the actual race, then the post-race show. Yes, it does take up the entire weekend.

**I started with the 2007 season, and have watched every race up through 2014 Austria as of last weekend (because there was no 2024 race to watch).

***Because I’m lazy at heart, and trying to find all of the spices to make my own mix, including dried black lime, would have been incredibly time-consuming.

****Again, see comment about my laziness because I was not going to make baklava myself this time.

*****What is it with F1 drivers and appendicitis?

******Will someone PLEASE tell me why Sargeant is still in F1? WHY???