Maqlooba, or 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.
Chicken or meat; cauliflower or eggplant; tomatoes or no tomatoes, there many combinations to this, even before you start thinking outside the “traditional” box.
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.
Maqlooba is usually eaten with just a side of yoghurt salad – yoghurt, cucumbers, tiny amount of onion/spring onion, mint, tiny amount of chilli.
Before we look at the ingredients, you might be interested in other Middle Eastern Rice Dishes:
How to make Perfect Maqluba (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 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!
Basmati is best for this. 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.
As mentioned, it’s your choice. While lamb tends to be the red meat of choice for many Middle Eastern households, I’ve gone for minced beef here, out of personal preference.
You can even use chicken or turkey; many of my readers who don’t eat red meat, have done that. You can also use sliced meat, instead of mince.
Or leave out the meat altogether, using just the same amount in vegetables.
Traditionally, it’s either cauliflower or eggplants. 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 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.
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 beef stock overpowering and seldom make 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 ones I use.
One stockpot or stock cube is usually for 500ml (2 cups) of water. So for the amount of liquid here, 2 stock cubes or pots are perfect, as we have the meat and vegetables to flavour too.
I prefer to coarsely grind some black peppercorns for this, allowing the pepper to shine through, yet blend in, instead of getting lost.
The saucepan/casserole dish. I believe a tightly packed pan will produce a tightly packed result, giving you a neat “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.
More Middle Eastern Recipes on LinsFood
Just head on over to the Middle Eastern and North African page for delicious recipes like:
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Maqlooba (Palestinian Upside Down Rice)
- 500 g (2 1/2 cups) Basmati rice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 500 g (1.1 lb) minced beef or lamb
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp salt
- coarsely crushed black pepper
- 750 ml (3 cups) chicken stock hot, preferably simmering away when you need it
- 1 small cauliflower chopped/sliced to bitesize pieces and roasted or grilled (see below)
- 1 large eggplant quartered, then diced (chopped into rough cubes)
- 1 courgette (zucchini) quartered, then diced (chopped into rough cubes)
- 1 red capsicum (bell pepper) chopped into rough cubes
- 2 tomatoes sliced in rings
- 30 g (1 oz) pine nuts
- 1 handful fresh parsley chopped
- Rinse and drain the rice and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in the saucepan over medium heat.
- Sauté the onions for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add meat, allspice, salt and quarter – half tsp pepper, stir and brown the meat all over and cook for about 10 minutes on medium high heat. We are also trying to lose as much of the liquid from the beef as possible, to avoid a soggy result afterwards.
Ok, here comes the fun bit!
- I do all this on the table, then transfer the pot to the stovetop. Grease your saucepan of choice and start with the layer/s of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the meat. Pack it in, flatten, season with salt and pepper.
- Add the vegetables, pack it in, season with salt and pepper.
- Finally the rice, pack, flatten, season with salt and pepper.
- Take a small saucer, place it face down on the rice (or use the back of a large spoon), and pour all the stock in. This stops a gap/hole appearing in the rice as you’re pouring the stock in (you know, like when watering plants?).
- Place the pot on the stovetop, turn the heat on high for about 3 minutes to bring everything up to simmering point although you’ll probably only see the edges bubbling.
- Put the lid on, turn the heat right down and cook for about 45 minutes. After that time, if you think the rice isn’t done, another 5-10 minutes should suffice.
- Take a large plate or serving platter, place it over the pot, take a deep breath, turn it upside down, inverting the rice onto the platter. This is just like doing the Spanish Tortilla.
- 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 with some yoghurt.
- If you do have a tower, as I expect you to, scatter with pine nuts and parsley & serve.
- Arrange the cauliflower pieces (lightly coated with olive oil & seasoned) on a baking sheet, roast for about 20-30 minutes at 180˚C/350˚F.