Maqlooba, or Maqluba, means “upside down”. 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, like Pad Thai, 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 another favourite rice dish:
Yemeni Chicken Mandi Recipe
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 as you get them ready and one more time as you’re layering (for good measure), of course, 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. I’ll let you decide this for yourself. Ok?
The Meat for Maqlooba
As mentioned, it’s your choice. In the Middle East, the red meat of choice is almost always lamb. Being a bigger fan of beef, I’ve gone for minced beef here, but you can use lamb, chicken or turkey. Or leave out the meat altogether, using just the same amount in vegetables. You can also use sliced meat, instead of mince.
The Vegetables in Maqlooba
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.
The Stock in 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 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 for Maqluba
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.
And if you fancy more Middle Eastern recipes, just head on over to the Middle Eastern page for recipes like:
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