Maqluba is a traditional Palestinian one-pot layered dish of rice, vegetables and meat inverted after cooking, the name literally meaning ‘upside down’ in Arabic. A savoury Middle Eastern tarte tatin. Serve with a yoghurt, mint and cucumber relish or a chopped tomato, parsley, cucumber Arabic salad. This recipe uses chicken, but would be really nice with lamb as well. Serves 6.
- 2 medium or 1 large aubergine, cut into 0.5cm slices
- 320g basmati rice
- 8 chicken thighs, boneless but with skin on
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- Sunflower oil for frying
- 1 medium cauliflower, broken into large florets
- 4 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 0.5cm slices
- 5 large garlic cloves, halved
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp baharat spice mix
- 30g pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted
Salt the aubergine slices and leave in a colander for 30 minutes.
Wash the rice and soak in cold water with a tsp. of salt for at least 30 minutes.
In a saucepan, sear the chicken breasts until golden on each side – about 3-4 minutes. Add extra oil if necessary, though the oil from the skin should suffice.
Add the peppercorns, onion, bay leaves and 900ml of water. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the stock and set aside. Drain the stock and reserve, skimming off the fat.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan of about 24cm diameter, heat about 2cm of sunflower oil. Batch fry the cauliflower florets until golden. Drain and set aside on kitchen paper.
Do the same with the aubergine, making sure you have plenty of kitchen paper to soak up excess oil.
Remove any excess oil from the saucepan. If it is not non-stick, line the base with parchment paper. Oil the sides of the pan and prepare to layer the maqluba ingredients.
First, place an overlapping layer of tomatoes, followed by an overlapping layer of aubergine. Then layer the chicken and cauliflower (I tore the chicken up into smaller pieces, rather than using whole breasts).
Drain the rice well and spread out as the final layer and scatter with the halved garlic cloves.
Measure 700ml of the chicken stock and stir in all the spices, plus a tsp of salt. Pour over the rice and press down with your hands to ensure all the rice is covered by the liquid.
Put the pan on a medium heat. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes. Do not open the lid – the rice needs time to steam properly. Remove pot from the heat and cover with a tea towel and the lid again for 10 more minutes.
When ready to serve, remove lid and tea towel. Place a plate on top of the pot and quickly invert. Leave the pot to stand for 3-4 minutes before removing. The maqluba should hold its shape.
Garnish with pine nuts or almonds and serve wedges with yoghurt and mint, salad and flatbread.
Adapted from Ottolenghi & Tamimi ‘Jerusalem’ and various other traditional recipes.