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.
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
2 Tomatoes cut in wedges
6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
1 Can Garbanzo Beans, drained (Optional)
1/2 Cup Pine Nuts (Optional)
1 Can Corn Kernels (Optional)
1 Cup Fresh Plain Greek Yogurt (Optional)
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.