Literally, maqlooba means upside down or flipped over. And that is exactly what this dish is- a pot full of deliciousness, flipped over onto a plate for serving. The first time I had this was at my BFF’s house, and yes she was Palestinian. Maqlooba is traditionally a Palestininan dish, although it is commonly cooked in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and all over the Middle East with some variations. It consists of rice, chicken or lamb, spices, and a variety of fried vegetables that include cauliflower, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and of course, garlic!
This dish is actually incredibly easy and delicious, the hardest part probably being finding a round serving plate large enough to flip your pot onto! I actually used one of those plastic party platters found at party city for $3…but seeing what a hit this dish was, I will need to invest in a sturdy and large round serving dish!
My recipe was developed the way most of mine are- with my interpretation of what I taste, plus some validations from the source. I conferred with a few reliable Palestinian chefs to make sure I was on the right track with my flavors. Maqlooba does involve quite a bit of frying vegetables, but I did try to limit this without cutting back on flavor. Hopefully my modifications won’t be too offensive to the traditional Palestinian kitchen! (and if so please do share your thoughts below!) I have to admit I actually have not had the pleasure of enjoying this authentic dish too often, but the couple of times I have had it, it has left such an impression on me that I NEEDED to create a recipe!
First of all, I decided to omit the potatoes because I figured the dish was starchy enough. So I did not fry any potatoes at first. But, then as I was stacking my pot, I decided to use some potato slices on the very bottom layer so that the good stuff doesn’t burn/stick. Turns out I will probably include the potatoes since it was such a hit in the pot! They absorb all the juicy flavors and keep the rice from sticking. Instead of frying everything, I lightly sautéed my vegetables in a little bit of olive oil. Some may still consider that frying, but the amount of olive oil used was quite minimal. The eggplant still absorbed quite a bit of oil, simply because they are like sponges, but at least the rest of the vegetables were’t immersed. I sautéed the cauliflower, onion, and garlic until they were golden. I set them out on a paper towel for the rest of the afternoon to “drain”. I sautéed the tomatoes at first but this was totally uneccesary because they get too soft. I love the flavor tomatoes impart to the dish so I use them sliced fresh, and they will cook in the pot along with the rice. I tossed the rice in all of the spices, onion, garlic,diced tomatoes, and some olive oil in a separate pan before I used it in the main pot assembly. I wanted to ensure every little grain was well coated in flavor. 😉
- 2 lbs lamb, cut into cubes (leg or shoulder) OR 2 lbs chicken legs, thigh, and breast
- 2 large onions, diced
- 6-8 cloves of garlic (4 minced, the rest sliced) + 1 tsp minced
- 2 large tomatoes, one sliced, one diced
- 1/2 c cauliflower florets
- 1/2 c sliced egg plant (1-2 medium eggplants), salted then washed to remove the bitter
- 1-2 potatoes, thinly sliced
- 4 c long grain or basmati rice, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp all spice
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- salt and pepper to taste (about 2 tsp salt)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- First lightly sauté the sliced garlic, eggplant, and cauliflower in a pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Do not worry about cooking the vegetables down completely as they will cook more in the pot of rice. Set aside the lightly fried vegetables on a paper towel to drain.
- In a large pot or in a pressure cooker, brown the lamb or chicken pieces then sauté with 1 of the diced onions, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp all spice, pepper to taste, and about 1 tsp of salt. Add enough water to just cover the meat if cooking in a pressure cooker, or about 3 inches above the meat if in a regular pot over the stove. Cook under high pressure for about 12 minutes or simmer on low in a pot for about 1 hour. Meat should cook tender, and broth will be flavorful. Reserve the broth by pouring into a measuring cup for cooking the rice.
- In a separate pan, over medium heat, sauté the remaining diced onion, a tsp of minced garlic, and the diced tomato in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the rice, 1 tsp of salt, the remaining spices (1/4 tsp all spice, 1/4 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger), and toss well until the rice is well coated.
- Now you are ready to assemble your pot of maqlooba. Lightly brush the bottom of the pot with some olive oil so that the dish flips out easily. First layer the potatoes, then the tomatoes, then the meat, and finally the cauliflower and eggplant interchangeably and spread out so that you get a bite of each in every spoonful! Top with the seasoned rice. Place a plate over the mixture to prevent it from separating while boiling and adding liquid. Pour the broth from the meat, plus some water. The liquid should be just covering the plate and measure about 5 1/2-6 cups. Once the liquid is boiling, turn the heat down to low and remove the plate. Cover and simmer on low until all the liquid is absorbed.
- Allow the pot to cool for about 15 minutes before attempting to flip. Place a round serving platter on top of the pot and quickly flip it over. It helps to leave the pot upside down for a few minutes before lifting off to allow any lingering pieces to fall downward.
- Try adding sliced zucchini, carrots, or other favorite roasted vegetables!