This delicious savory cake made of rice, eggplant and meat is also very popular among Palestinian Arabs, who often serve it at banquets and family events.
One of the peculiarities of maqluba is its presentation. Slowly cooked in a round flat pot, the preparation is then turned over to form that very characteristic meat and rice cake. In fact, the word maqluba, in Arabic, literally means “flipped over”.
It is difficult to trace the exact origin of this dish, but it appears in very old cookbooks, such as the famous Baghdad Cookery Book, which was written in the thirteenth century, and devotes a whole chapter to it.
The maqluba I chose to cook uses rice, eggplant and lamb, but there are many variations of this dish depending on the region and even the family traditions. The Lebanese version, for example, often incorporates pine nuts. Some people prefer to use chicken or beef instead of lamb. It is also possible to add tomatoes or chickpeas to the preparation. Maqluba is usually accompanied by either yogurt or Arabic salad – a salad made with cucumbers and tomatoes, diced and marinated in lemon juice and parsley. It is this salad that we have chosen to accompany our feast.
There are many other recipes using the same type of ingredients throughout the world. So, if you liked the maqluba, I suggest you also try the Ukrainian plov, the Brazilian galinhada or the Afghan kabuli pulao.
- 1½ lb lamb shank (or beef shank), boneless, cut into large cubes
- 2 eggplants , cut into strips lengthwise
- 2 cups rice
- 1 onion , thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 2 bay leaves
- In a saucepan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, sauté the onions and the meat, stirring for a few minutes until the meat is browned on all sides.
- Then add the salt, black pepper, allspice, cardamom, and bay leaves. Add 6 cups of water, then cover the pan and simmer until the meat is cooked, about 1h30 to 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Add the eggplant slices and fry on both sides until golden brown. Place the eggplant on paper towel and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, arrange the eggplant slices all around at the bottom, rising slightly over the sides, then add the pieces of meat on top. Add 4 cups of the meat broth, the rice and a pinch of salt.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cover the pan and simmer over low heat until the rice is cooked (about 25 minutes).
- Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then carefully turn the pan over a serving platter. Serve warm with yogurt or Arabic salad.