Maqluba an Upside Down Arabic Dish

Maqluba an Upside Down Arabic Dish

Macluba

Maqluba is a Levantine dish popular in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine.  The name literally means “upside down” because the meat, vegetables, and rice are stacked in a handleless pot to cook, then flipped over and placed on a large tray for serving.

These days Maqluba is described as a one pot dish, which I suppose it could be; assuming you don’t count the pot you stew the meat in, and the pan you fry the veggies in.  Not to mention the bowl you soak the rice in, and if you’re adding vermicelli and pine nuts the pan you brown the pasta and nuts in.

Maqluba is very similar to Paella which is also a one pot dish composed of meat or seafood, veggies, and rice.  Considering that many parts of Spain was under Moorish rule for a total of about 800 years it would be fair to say that Paella is the Spanish version of Maqluba or vice versa.

It is honestly the only Arabic dish I can claim to have mastered.  After years of making Maqluba I’ve finally gotten it right every single time.  It’s really not that difficult to make, it’s just tedious due to all the steps in the recipe and the time it takes to make it.  If you count the time it takes to soak the rice this dish takes all day to make, at the very least about 3  hours.  But it is truly worth the time and effort.

Maqluba is typically made with stewed meat, either lamb, beef, or chicken; fried vegetables such as potatoes, cauliflower, or eggplant; and rice.  All the ingredients are stacked in that order into a large deep pot preferably without handles.  Of course you can omit the meat and make a vegetarian dish.

There are “enhancements” you can add to make the dish fancier.  Some folks like to mix vermicelli and even garbanzo beans in the rice before cooking, then sprinkle it with pine nuts before serving.  And of course in our family I slip tomato wedges between the meat before cooking, and some of us like to top the cooked dish with corn kernels and plain yogurt.  In short I suppose each family has it’s own version on how to cook and eat Maqluba.  But one thing is certain, it’s delicious!

Here’s how we make it at our house, but first here’s a quick tip.  When making Maqluba use a deeper pot with no handles (a maqluba pot is the best, but hard to find in the US, you may find one at a middle eastern grocery store) and a lid, or a pot with removable handles or handles that aren’t too close to the pot lip.  This will make flipping it over easier as handles can block the tray you flip it on to from laying flat on top of the pot.  The pot has to be deep enough to layer the ingredients and still have enough space for the rice to expand as it cooks.

Maqcluba

Ingrdients:

4-5 Cups Long Grain Rice

1 Tbs. Turmeric Powder

1/8 Cup Olive Oil

8-10 pieces of meat (lamb, beef, or bone in chicken thighs)

1 Large Onion, cut in chunks

1 Tbs. Garlic, crushed

1 Tbs. + 1 Tsp. Ground Cumin

1 Tsp. + 1 Tsp. Ground Nutmeg

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper

1 Box Stock (beef or chicken depending on the meat you use)

1 Large Cauliflower, cut into chunks

1 Large Eggplant, cut into rounds

3 Potatoes, peeled and cut into rounds

Oil for frying

Cooking spray

2 Tomatoes cut in wedges

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled

Vermicelli (Optional)

1 Can Garbanzo Beans, drained (Optional)

1/2 Cup Pine Nuts (Optional)

Butter (Optional)

1 Can Corn Kernels (Optional)

1 Cup Fresh Plain Greek Yogurt (Optional)

Directions:

Place rice in a big bowl and cover with water.

Add Turmeric to water and stir until it is evenly distributed and water turns yellow.  Set aside for at least 2 hours. Check periodically as the rice will absorb the water.  If all the water is absorbed add more and stir.

Heat olive oil in a stock pot.

Saute onions in hot oil until it starts to turn translucent.

Add crushed garlic and cook another minute, stir to keep from burning.

Add meat, 1 Tbs. Cumin, 1 Tsp. Nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook until meat starts to brown.

Add stock and then add water to completely cover the meat.

Let simmer until meat is tender and fully cooked.  About 2 hours.  Set aside when done.

Meanwhile place about 1″ oil in frying pan.

Fry your veggies until cooked and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.

If using Vermicelli and/or Pine Nuts:  Melt about 1 tbs. butter in a small frying pan.  Add vermicelli and cook until it starts to turn brown, stir constantly to keep from burning.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Repeat this procedure with Pine Nuts.

When ready to stack meat in the pot:

Spray bottom and sides of pot with cooking spray.

Drain rice then stir in vermicelli noodles and/or garbanzo beans if using.

Starting with the meat, remove meat from pot it was cooked it, reserve the broth do not discard.

Arrange meat at the bottom of the pot.

Slip garlic cloves and tomato wedges between the meat.

Sprinkle meat with 1 tsp. cumin and 1 tsp. nutmeg.

Arrange veggies on top of meat.

Pour rice mixture over the veggies and smooth out to make the top flat.

Gently pour reserved broth over the rice.  Fill until the broth just covers the rice, if you don’t have enough broth add water.

Cover with lid and simmer over medium heat until rice is cooked.  Check every 10 minutes or so to make sure the liquid has not all evaporated before the rice is cooked.  If you need to add more liquid, either broth or water.  This takes about 30 minutes.

If the rice is cooked and you still have liquid remove lid and raise the heat for about 5 minutes so that the rest of the liquid evaporates.  Be careful not to burn the bottom.  Or you can carefully drain extra liquid before flipping.

When rice is cooked and there is no more liquid remove pot from lid.  Let rest about 5 minutes.

Flip over onto a large tray.

Garnish with cooked Pine Nuts on the meat if desired.

Serve with bowls of corn kernels and plain yogurt.

 

 

Maqluba an Upside Down Arabic Dish
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Homemade Falafels

Homemade Falafels

Falafels are traditional Middle Eastern deep fried patties or balls made from chickpeas, fava beans, or both.  They’re usually found stuffed in Pita bread or rolled in a flatbread along with fresh and pickled veggies and topped with a tahini sauce, that’s a Falafel Sandwich.  They are also eaten with fried eggs, hummus, babaganouj, and pickles for breakfast or served as mezzes and snacks.

My first encounter with falafels was at a kiosk in New York city where I grew up.  Buying a falafel sandwich from this kiosk was a treat when we spent the day at the near by park.  Then my family moved to Hawaii in the mid-70’s where there were no kiosks selling “ethnic” foods and so I didn’t have falafels again until I married my husband who is of Palestinian decent.  Imagine his surprise when I told him I actually knew what falafels were!

As newlyweds in Hawaii we had to figure out how to make falafels at home; as I new bride I had no clue!  Remember back in the 80’s there was no google, no pinterest, no instagram, or any kind of internet that would find a recipe in seconds.  I had to rely on cookbooks from the library, not really helpful.

Then we found a box of falafel mix at a local health food store.  Just add water and fry.  It wasn’t the best, but we made do.  I started experimenting with the boxed mix and found that adding finely chopped fresh parsley improved the taste.  Started adding more spices and pretty soon I figured I may as well by pass the mix and make it from scratch.   That didn’t go so well until I managed to buy a food processor, now I was in business!

As I was exploring the makings for falafel from scratch we started traveling all over the world.  Of course travel opens up your life to different places, foods, and cultures and our travels in the Middle East definitely helped my falafel making.  We loved the falafel sandwiches at Mr. Falfala in Cairo and the ones found on the streets of Diera in Dubai.  But nothing beats the fresh falafels served at Hashem’s and Abu Jbarra in Jordan!  On our last trip to Dubai this year we discovered that Abu Jbarra opened a place by the Dubai Mall, we ate brunch there almost everyday!

Anyway those trips to Egypt, Dubai, and Jordan whetted my desire to make falafels at home that would be close to the ones served in the places we loved.  I say close because I doubt I’ll ever figure out the exact match to Hashem’s falafels served in this little alley in downtown Amman.

I make large batches of falafels so that I have enough to freeze for future use.  Raw falafel paste freezes beautifully!  This way I don’t have to haul out the food processor every time I want to fry falafels and I always have some handy when  I have a yen for a falafel sandwich.

I’ve found that using fresh ingredients makes the difference between decent falafels and amazing ones!  So I use fresh cilantro, parsley, and dill as my primary seasonings; they will turn your mixture green, but the greener the falafel is the better it tastes in my opinion.  I also use dry chickpeas never canned.

It takes a bit of planning to make really great falafels, but believe me it’s so worth the effort!

Fresh Falafel

Ingredients:

8 oz. Dried Chickpeas (1/2 a bag)

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

1 Large bunch of Fresh Cilantro, rinsed and dried on paper towel

1 Large Bunch of Fresh American Parsley, rinsed and dried on paper towel

1 Small Bunch of Fresh Dill, rinsed and dried on paper towel

2 Tbs. Fresh Garlic, minced

1 Tbs. Cumin Powder

1 Tbs. Ground Coriander

1 Tbs. Sea Salt

1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

Oil for frying

Pita or Flat Bread

Optional Condiments: Fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, pickled beets, tahini sauce, thousand island dressing, or what ever you want to add in the sandwich

Directions:

Pour dried chickpeas into a bowl and mix in baking soda.

Cover with water and soak overnight.

Rinse chickpeas in cool water and drain in a colander.

In a food processor load in this order:

Cilantro leaves and stems (you don’t have to use all the stems but do use the leaves), Parsley, Dill (prepare and use Parsley and Dill the same way as Cilantro).

Drained chickpeas and garlic

Dried spices (cumin, coriander, salt, pepper)

Turn on processor and grind until it is a paste

If freezing place paste into freezer safe containers and freeze.  Thaw before cooking.

If using immediately:

Heat about 2″ of oil in a small pot.

Add baking soda to falafel paste and combine well.

Test that oil is hot enough by dropping a small amount of falafel paste in; if oil starts bubbling around the paste your oil is ready for frying.

Form paste into small 1″ balls or patties and drop into hot oil.

Fry until all sides are brown, cooked falafel will float.

Drain on paper towels and serve as a sandwich filling or by itself for breakfast or as mezzes.


Homemade Falafels
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Easy Beef Shawarma Wrap Recipe

Easy Beef Shawarma Wrap Recipe

Whenever we are in LA there’s this place we frequent, Zankou Chicken; although their specialty is the delicious rotisserie chicken they also serve beef and chicken kebobs and shawarma wraps.  We love the beef shawarma so much that we buy a dozen or so to take home with us.

Since there are no trips planned to LA anytime soon I decided to try my hand at making my own.
Shawarma is usually cooked on a spit and slow roasted as it turn, I don’t have one of those machines so I found a way to make it using just my oven and stove top.
To make the meat extra tender I used thinly sliced boneless beef short ribs with all the fat trimmed off.  I adapted a chinese restaurant method used to tenderize their stir fry meat and it made my ribs very tender.
The secret to great shawarma is the spices used to marinate the meat.  So get out your spice rack to make this tasty recipe.  We make it into wraps using either pita bread or nan.  Served with crunchy dill pickles and my sun dried tomato/roasted red pepper hummus and you’ve got a filling meal.
My family thinks my version is just as good as the shawarma we buy at Zankou!
Marinade Ingredients:
1 tbls. corn starch
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbls. garlic powder
1 tsp. Allspice
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Cayenne Red Pepper
1 tsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Turmeric
1 tsp. Corriander
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
1 lb. thin sliced boneless beef short ribs
Extra olive oil for sauteing
Extra spices for taste adjustment (optional)
Pita or Nan bread
Hummus spread (you can use my Sun dried tomato/Roasted red pepper hummus or any hummus you prefer)
Dill pickle spears
Lettuce, tomato, any other veggies you prefer – optional
Directions  for Marinade:
1.  Place all ingredients in a large ziplock bag
2.  Seal bag and knead until it’s well blended – break up any clumps of corn starch that may form so that it mixes in with the oil and spices.  You should end up with a cloudy thick liquid.
3.  Trim extra fat off the edges of the short ribs
4.  Place beef in to ziplock bag, seal bag, and knead bag so that the meat is covered with marinade on all sides.
5.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour; up to overnight.  Turn bag occasionally to evenly distribute marinade.  The longer it marinates in the oven the more flavorful the meat will be.
Cooking and assembling directions:
1.  Place meat on an ungreased baking sheet.
2.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes
3.  Remove from baking sheet and slice into thin strips
4.  Heat some olive oil in large pan
5.  Add sliced meat into hot oil and saute – DO NOT SKIP this step, it’s what gives it the finish like it was roasted on a spit.
6.  If you feel you the meat needs more spices you can sprinkle more of the above spices as you saute.  I usually sprinkle a bit more garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, and nutmeg at this stage.
7.  Spread one side of bread with hummus
8.  Layer on meat, pickles, and other veggies you prefer
9.  Fold sides over the filling and serve
10.  Enjoy!
Easy Beef Shawarma Wrap Recipe
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Servings Prep Time
6 Wraps 15 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 Minutes 1 Hour
Servings Prep Time
6 Wraps 15 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 Minutes 1 Hour
Easy Beef Shawarma Wrap Recipe
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 Wraps 15 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 Minutes 1 Hour
Servings Prep Time
6 Wraps 15 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 Minutes 1 Hour
Ingredients
Servings: Wraps
Instructions
  1. Directions for Marinade: Place all ingredients in a large ziplock bag
  2. Seal bag and knead until it's well blended - break up any clumps of corn starch that may form so that it mixes in with the oil and spices. You should end up with a cloudy thick liquid.
  3. Trim extra fat off the edges of the short ribs
  4. Place beef in to ziplock bag, seal bag, and knead bag so that the meat is covered with marinade on all sides.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour; up to overnight. Turn bag occasionally to evenly distribute marinade. The longer it marinates in the oven the more flavorful the meat will be.
  6. Cooking and assembling directions: Place meat on an ungreased baking sheet.
  7. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes
  8. Remove from baking sheet and slice into thin strips
  9. Heat some olive oil in large pan
  10. Add sliced meat into hot oil and saute - DO NOT SKIP this step, it's what gives it the finish like it was roasted on a spit.
  11. If you feel you the meat needs more spices you can sprinkle more of the above spices as you saute. I usually sprinkle a bit more garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, and nutmeg at this stage.
  12. Spread one side of bread with hummus
  13. Layer on meat, pickles, and other veggies you prefer
  14. Fold sides over the filling and serve
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Mansaf – Middle Eastern Lamb Dish

Mansaf – Middle Eastern Lamb Dish

mensaf Mansaf, Fatiyeh, or Fatihah this traditional middle eastern lamb stew in yogurt sauce is a big part of Arabic cuisine.  It is a favorite dish for large gatherings including weddings and engagement parties.  In short it plays a large part in Middle Eastern hospitality.

In my experience folks in the Arab world are very hospitable and generous. Rolling out a huge tray of Mansaf is a sign of respect and welcome to anyone visiting an Arab home whether it be in Jordan, Dubai, Europe, or America.

But of course this traditional dish has several names depending on the country or even city one is in.  In most countries like Jordan and Lebanon it’s called Mansaf; it’s the same dish Palestinians from the West Bank call Fatiyeh or Fatihah and those who hail closer to the larger cities call Mensaf.  Whatever it’s called it’s basically the same dish with a few regional additions to the toppings.

So what is Mansaf?  It’s a dish typically made with Lamb that’s simmered in a yogurt sauce made from reconstituted “Chisitch/Kishk/Jameed” (fermented or dried sheeps’ milk yogurt.)  Then the meat and sauce are served on a bed of torn unleavened bread like Shrak or pita and rice.  The whole dish can be topped with fresh parsley and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts; or as I’ve been taught by some of my Palestinian husband’s friends a ring of fried onions and tomatoes.

Really the secret ingredient, or not so secret, is the Chisitch.  Okay it’s not the easiest thing to get your hands on.  I usually get the dried balls of Chisitch from my husband’s relatives who travel to and from the Middle East or my sister-in-law who actually makes it!  I’ve also been able to buy it from a market in Oman during one of my trips there.  But you might be able to find it at a middle eastern market where it’s usually called Kishk or Jameed.  It’s available in liquid or powder form.  Or you can believe it or not order it from Amazon by clicking this affiliate link!   

If all else fails and you simply can not get a hold of Chisitch/Kishk/Jameed then use Buttermilk!  Yes the carton you find in your grocer’s diary section.  Good old fashioned buttermilk, the stuff you can use to make Buttermilk pancakes and biscuits!

If you’re using balls of chisitch from where ever you must reconstitute it – meaning soak the balls in water overnight, then place all of it in your blender until it is liquified.  You might need to add water to the blender to get the liquid you need.

If you’re using powdered kishk or jameed then dissolve it in water.  Obviously the easiest one to use would be liquid jameed or buttermilk.

Whichever one you use the real secret is to keep the jameed or kishk liquid from curdling when you add it to your meat.  To do that you must temper it by slowly stirring the liquid into a little bit of lamb broth.  This brings the temperature of the jameed up to the temperature of the stewed meat.

To season this dish I use my Lebanese 7 Spices Mix Click here for that recipe!

So if you want to try this yummy dish at home scroll down for my recipe.  It’s pretty fussy, it takes me a whole afternoon too make it!  This recipe is for a fairly small tray, you can double or triple it if you need to make a large tray for more people.

By the way Mansaf or Fatihah is traditionally eaten with one’s fingers right off the serving tray.  The polite and proper way to eat this dish is to use your fingers to take bite-sized portions from the tray and pop it in your mouth.  You take portions only from the meat and rice that is directly in front of you; respect other diner’s tray space.  That’s how it’s traditionally eaten; at our house it’s served family style with a serving spoon used to spoon a portion on to each person’s plate and we uses forks and knives.

 

Mansaf
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Mansaf
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place meat in large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil.
  2. While meat boils fat will come to the surface. Skim off fat and discard. Continue this process until fat stops forming on the surface.
  3. Strain meat and set aside while you thoroughly wash out the pot. Dry pot before proceeding.
  4. Heat 1 Tbs. Olive Oil in pot and add 1 portion of chopped onions. Cook onions until they start to soften.
  5. Add meat and Lebanese 7 Spices Mix and stir well. Cook until onions become translucent.
  6. Add beef broth to cover meat. Bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 2 hours.
  8. Meanwhile you can prepare other parts of the dish.
  9. Heat remaining Olive Oil in frying pan and add remaining chopped onions. Cook until onions start to soften.
  10. Add garlic to pan and cook about 1 minute stirring constantly.
  11. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until tomatoes are soft and juices start to come out. Salt & Pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
  12. Melt 2 Tbs. Butter in saute pan and toast pine nuts until they start to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  13. About 30 minutes before stew is cooked prepare rice by first melting remaining butter in pot.
  14. Add Vermecelli and saute until pasta starts to turn golden brown.
  15. Add dry rice and saute another minute.
  16. Stir in about 4 cups of water to cover the rice. Cook covered over low heat for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked. Let rest at least 5 minutes to absorb any remaining water.
  17. Check you meat. It should be tender and falling off the bone.
  18. If meat is cooked turn down heat very low.
  19. Remove about 1 cup of broth from pot to temper your jameed or buttermilk.
  20. Slowly pour liquid jameed or buttermilk into that broth. Stirring only in one direction as you add the jameed. This is tempering the jameed. It is very important that you stir as you combine the liquids and stir only in one direction to keep the jameed from curdling.
  21. Once the jameed is tempered using the same procedure slowly add the tempered jameed into the pot of stew.
  22. Simmer on low heat for about 20 Minutes.
  23. Meanwhile prepare your serving tray. Break up the bread into pieces and place pieces on to the tray.
  24. Cover bread with rice.
  25. Place meat on the rice. Pour yogurt sauce (liquid you cooked meat in) over the meat and rice.
  26. Spoon tomato mixture around the meat.
  27. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.
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Lebanese 7 Spices Mix

LebaneseI’ve heard it said many times that Lebanese cooking is the best cuisine the Middle Eastern countries have to offer.  Lebanese restaurants are the go to places when one has a yen for Arabic or Middle Eastern food.  This seems to be one of the few things that Arabs from around the world can mostly agree on.

I must confess that in my experience this is usually true.  Lebanese cooking is definitely top notch and any where we travel we look for a Lebanese restaurant.  Among my favorites are Al Halabi in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates and Wafi Gourmet in both the Dubai Mall and Wafi Mall; Reem Al Bawadi in Amman; and Mandaloun not far from the Spanish Steps in Rome.

But what makes Lebanese cuisine so great?  I’m not exactly sure, but I believe that one of its secrets are the spices they use.  Their Lebanese 7 Spices Mix in my opinion is the key to their delicious entrees.

Lebanese 7 Spices Mix contains many of the spices found in cuisine in and around that region.  It has cumin and coriander for sure and 6 other spices making it actually an 8 spices mix.  Why it’s called 7 Spices is beyond me unless the ground black pepper isn’t counted as a spice.

lebaneseAnyway whatever you call it seasoning grilled meats and stews with this Lebanese 7 Spices Mix makes for a delicious meal!  I like to keep a jar on hand and use it in marinades and of course for one of the family’s favorite dishes Mesaf or Fatiyeh, a dish of stewed meat in yogurt sauce.

You can mix up  a batch of Lebanese 7 Spices Mix to add to your stews too.  Just be sure you store it in an airtight container.  I use pint sized mason jars to store all my spice mixes.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Lebanese 7 Spices Mix
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Lebanese 7 Spices Mix
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients into a small bowl and stir until well blended.
  2. Transfer to an airtight container for storage.
Recipe Notes

To use in rubs or marinades stir 2 Tbs. Mix into 1 Tbs. Olive Oil and rub into meats.  Or add the same proportion of mix to oil and combine with 1 Tbs. Vinegar to make marinade.

When using in stews or other dishes 1 Tbs. of mix is for each serving.

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