I had never heard of maqluba until I spotted it in Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook. This layered vegetable, chicken and rice torte is a traditional Palestinian one-pot meal that means "upside-down." I think of this maqluba recipe as a savory pineapple upside down cake, but made with chicken, tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower and rice. Maqluba can also be made with lamb, beef or eliminate the meat for a vegetarian dish.
Middle Eastern Comfort Food
My family really enjoyed this dish. The maqluba is seasoned with an array of spices including garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, allspice, and a middle eastern spice blend called baharat, which includes ground coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cumin seeds, cardamom and nutmeg. You can purchase baharat at Middle Eastern markets or online at Amazon or the Savory Spice Shop.
This is not a light meal, but one that you will enjoy on a cool night after a hard-working day.
Inverting the Maqluba Can Be a Challenge
I had my husband and son invert the maqluba while I snapped a few pictures. If you are using a heavy dutch oven, which I recommend, inverting the maqluba is a challenge, and not a one-person job. Ottolenghi recommends you wait three minutes before removing the pan after you invert it. Sami Tamimi says all family members must rest their palms on the inverted pot for three minutes to get the best outcome. Don't worry if your maqluba doesn't invert perfectly. If it does, you are more talented than I am! And perfect or imperfect, your maqluba will be delicious.
Please note there are some differences between the pictures and the instructions. Follow the instructions, not the pictures. The eggplant should be sliced in circles not lengthwise as shown. And the eggplant should be the second layer, after the tomatoes, and not after the cauliflower as shown. None of this is critical, but it makes for a nicer presentation.
This is truly a one-pot meal. Serve with herbed yogurt and cucumber sauce. The cool, tart sauce contrasts nicely with the savory maqluba. It takes a little time to sauté the chicken and fry the cauliflower and eggplant, but once assembled, you have a complete meal-in-a-pot.
For this recipe, I did not stray far from Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's recipe. In the future I think I would try changing a couple things. Instead of frying the cauliflower and eggplant, I think I would roast them in the oven. This would accomplish two things: 1) It would reduce the time it takes to make the dish, 2) It would use considerably less oil. You could also play with the spices a bit if you wanted to.
Please let us know if you try an alternate method for your maqluba.
Yield 8 servings
A Middle Eastern vegetable, chicken and rice torte, that translates to "upside-down." Think of it like a savory pineapple upside down cake chock full of tomatoes, cauliflower and eggplant.
- 2 eggplants sliced into 1/4" thick rounds (note pictures are not correct)
- 1 2/3 cups basmati rice
- 8 skinless boneless chicken thighs
- 1 onion peeled and quartered lengthwise
- 10 peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups sunflower oil - approximately
- 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 T butter, melted
- 4 tomatoes sliced 1/4" thick
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
- 1 t ground turmeric
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- 1 t allspice
- 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 t crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1 t baharat
- 1/4 c pine nuts, slivered almonds or pistachios
- Lemon wedges
- Salt both sides of the eggplant slices and layout on paper towels for about 30 minutes. The eggplant will literally bead up with water.
- Rinse rice until the rinse water is clear. Put rice in a bowl and cover with water to soak for about half an hour.
- Pound the chicken thighs with a tenderizing mallet. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Put a teaspoon of sunflower oil in a large medium hot sauce pan. Sear chicken for 3-4 minutes on both sides. Add onion, pepper corns, bay leaves and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside. Strain broth and reserve.
- In a dutch oven that is about 10" in diameter and 5" deep, add remaining sunflower oil. The oil should be about 3/4" deep. Heat oil over a medium hot burner. Working in batches, cook cauliflower florets in the hot oil until they begin to brown, about 4 - 5 minutes, turning with tongs as they brown. Remove to paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
- Dry the eggplant slices and fry them in batches in the same oil until they begin to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Let drain on paper towels.
- Discard the oil and wipe clean. Cut a parchment circle the size of the pan and lay it in the bottom. Brush the parchment and the sides of the pan with melted butter.
- Begin layering the maqluba, starting with the tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes in an overlapping circular pattern. Then layer the eggplant on top of the tomatoes. Next scatter the cauliflower over the eggplant. Place the cooked chicken thighs on top of the cauliflower. Scatter the rice and garlic over the top. Using your hands press the rice evenly.
- Skim any residual fat off the chicken broth. Put 3 cups of broth into a bowl. Whisk in the spices and 1 t salt. Pour the seasoned broth over the rice. Using your hands press down on the rice until the broth covers the rice. At first it may seem too dry, but if you keep pressing the broth will surface to the top. If there is not enough broth to cover the rice you can add a bit more liquid, but just enough to cover.
- Now you are ready to cook the maqluba. Put the pot on a medium burner and heat until the liquid just begins to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Keep the lid on as the steam is necessary to cook the rice through. Don't peek! After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the lid briefly. Place a clean kitchen cloth over the top of the pot. Quickly put the lid back on and allow the maqluba to sit for 10 minutes.
- When you are ready to serve, remove the lid and place a serving dish over the top. Invert the pan and let the maqluba sit for three minutes before removing the pan.
- Scatter pine nuts over the top of the maqluba and serve with the cold herbed yogurt and cucumber sauce. Serve with a wedge of lemon.
THIS SERVES WELL WITH