Maqluba, means “upside down”. Looking at the picture, that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? It’s a delicious, comforting Palestinian rice dish, a one pot treasure that knows as many variations as there are cooks making it.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Table of contents
Maqluba is more a method than a recipe. As long as you know the principle behind the dish, i.e. the layering, the use of some sort of fat, allspice, rice and meat – or even just vegetables – you’re off to a delicious start.
I’ve made many variations of Maqlooba, including, all vegetarian (using olive oil/butter/ghee as the fat), meat/chicken and varying the spices by adding turmeric and/or sumac.
Maqluba is usually eaten with just a side of yoghurt and green salad. It is such a flavoursome dish that you don’t really need anything else.
How to make Perfect Maqlooba
Start with a layer or two of tomatoes – not only does this prevent the bottom burning but those tomatoes are to die for at the end of cooking time. I’ve been known to really pile the tomatoes on for the second reason.
Season all the layers well with salt and pepper as you get them ready and one more time as you’re layering (for good measure), BUT, don’t overdo it with the salt!
In my original, old photo, and in the video, you see me making just one layer of everything. But in these new pictures, as you can see, I split the lamb up to create more layers. It just looks prettier that way, doesn’t it?
What Rice to use for Maqluba?
Basmati is best for cooking maqluba. Now, no matter what I’m cooking, I do not believe in soaking the rice first, preferring the texture of it without the soaking period.
You can either use a pot or a portable rice cooker. I’ll let you decide this for yourself. Whatever you are using, just follow the instructions in the recipe for this maqluba recipe.
Lamb is the meat of choice in the Middle East. Quite often, the lamb used is chopped up, bite-sized pieces. But I’ve gone for mince lamb here, for no particular reason. You can used either.
You can even use chicken or turkey in maqluba; many of my readers who don’t eat red meat, have done that.
Or leave out the meat altogether, using just the same amount in vegetables, like in this Vegetable Maqluba.
The Vegetables in Maqluba
Traditionally, cauliflower, eggplants and capsicums (bell pepper) are the vegetables of choice. I like to add courgettes (zucchini) to the mix for even more variety. I find this limiting and prefer to use both as well as capsicum (bell peppers) and courgettes (zucchinis), the last 3 having a natural affinity with each other.
The vegetables for maqluba are also traditionally fried, before being layered. I prefer to roast them in the oven with a little oil, salt and pepper, not being a massive fan of fried food. Frying or roasting the vegetables give them flavour which transfers onto the final dish.
Feel free to cheat here and get ready roasted vegetables from your supermarket, if you fancy. I always have a bag of these in the freezer, they are so handy for when I’m feeling lazy.
The Stock for Maqluba
Many people are happy to add water to the cooking meat, remove the meat, then use the liquid as stock – I prefer to use additional homemade stock – or a good shop bought one if you’re not into making stock. Also, I find lamb stock overpowering and seldom make it or use it, preferring to use chicken stock across the board.
If you make your own stock, great, if not, use a good shop bought stockpot or cube, no artificial anything. We tend to have frozen homemade stock at home, but there are always some stockpots handy for when we run out, and because they are also very convenient. These are the stockpots that I use. I have them in the whole range.
One stockpot or stock cube is usually for 500ml (2 cups) of water. So for the amount of liquid in today’s maqluba recipe, 2 stock cubes or pots are perfect, as we have the meat and vegetables to flavour too.
The saucepan/casserole dish. I believe a tightly packed pan will produce a tightly packed result, giving you a neat maqlooba “tower” that won’t fall apart. For the amount of ingredients here, you’ll need a dish that measures 20cm-22 cm (8″-9″) across ideally.
This is a question I get a lot. The saucepan I’m using in these latest pictures is a stone pot. And here is the link for the whole set.
And on that note, shall we get our aprons on?
More Middle Eastern Recipes
Just head on over to the Middle Eastern and North African page for delicious recipes like:
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Maqluba (or Makloubeh, Palestinian Upside Down Rice)
- Chopping board
- small saucepan for the stocl
- large frying pan for the mince
- saucepan for the maqluba measuring 20 – 22cm, about 10cm high (8-9" x 4")
- baking sheet
- ladles and spatula as needed
- 500 g Basmati rice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 500 g minced lamb (or beef)
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 800 ml chicken stock hot, preferably simmering away when you need it
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 courgette (zucchini)
- 1 red capsicum (bell pepper)
- 4 tomatoes sliced in rings
- 1 small cauliflower
- 30 g pine nuts
- 1 handful fresh parsley chopped
Prep Work – the rice and vegetables
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F, for the cauliflower.
- Rinse and drain the rice and set aside.
- Dice the onion (chop up fairly finely).
- Chop up the eggplant, courgette and capsicum into rough cube shapes. Basically, quarter the eggplant and courgette lengthwise, then slice.
- Slice the tomatoes into rounds and set aside.
Let's Roast the Cauliflower (you can skip the roasting and use it raw)
- Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces.
- Arrange the cauliflower pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle 1 Tbsp of EV olive oil all over. Sprinkle a ¼ tsp of salt and some freshly ground black pepper and roast for about 20 at 180˚C/350˚F. Flip halfway through the cooking time.
Let's precook the minced lamb
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Sauté the onions for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add meat, allspice, salt and some pepper, stir and brown the meat all over and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. You want the final result to be a little on the dry side, but not too dry. A little moisture is good.
Let's assemble and cook our Maqluba
- Grease your saucepan all over. Then start with layering the bottom with the sliced tomatoes. You'll get 2 layers. Season with salt and pepper, a small sprinkle will do.
- Add half the meat, season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Then pack down with a potato masher. In my original recipe and video, I place all the meat first. But in these new pictures, you can see that I'm layering the meat along with the rice. So half the meat now, and half later.
- Add all the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and pack down.
- Then top with half the rice, season with salt and pepper and flatten.
- Now we add the second half of the meat, season, and pack down.
- And finally, the second half of the rice. Season with salt and pepper, and pack down.
- Take a small saucer, place it face down on the rice (or use the back of a large spoon), and slowly pour all the stock in. This stops a gap/hole appearing in the rice as you're pouring the stock in. You also don't want to mess with the packed rice and stuff.
- Place the pot on the stovetop, turn the heat on high for 3 minutes to bring everything up to simmering point although you'll probably only see the edges bubbling. When you see the bubbles at the edges, move on to the next step.
- Put the lid on, turn the heat right down and cook for 45 minutes. After that time, if you think the rice isn't done, another 5-10 minutes should suffice. Take the saucepan off the hot hob and leave the rice to rest for 10 minutes before unveiling.
- Take a large plate or serving platter, place it over the pot. Holding the plate tightly against the saucepan, give it a gentle shake. Then slowly, ease the saucepan off the plate. In the video, this happens at around 12:15 minutes. Top with the nuts and parsley.
- If you packed the saucepan as mentioned, it shouldn't collapse. But if it does, no big deal, scatter with pine nuts and parsley and serve.