A traditional Arabic dish of ancient origins, mouth-watering Maklubah (maqlub, maqlube) is a gala menu all by itself.
“Maklubah” means “upside-down” in Arabic, and this dish must be stood on its head to deserve the name. A Turkish translation of the 13th-century Baghdad Cookery Book has a recipe for Maklubah, but I’m sure that people knew and were happily eating it centuries before then.
Considered an Arabic rather than an Jewish dish, Maklubah is still known in a simpler version in some Sephardic homes. This sumptuous recipe requires an hour and a half to prepare but it’s worth the effort. It’s so delicious, it will make everyone eating it love you.
From Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey to Israel and Jordan, each place has developed a regional recipe for layered rice and chicken or pre-cooked lamb or beef. Some call for saffron in addition to turmeric; some substitute nutmeg for allspice. And if you’d prefer a meatless Maklubah, read our post about chef Moshe Basson’s vegetarian version for inspiration. It’s all Maklubah, and it’s always served upside-down.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon paprika
3 medium tomatoes, thickly sliced
2 large onions, thickly sliced
3 medium potatoes, sliced
1 small head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 medium eggplant, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved
6 skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2 1/2 cups raw rice, soaked in cold water for 1/2 hour, then 1/2 cup of it set aside
3-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
In large sauté pan, cook onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until golden. Add turmeric, thyme, allspice and pepper to taste. Set aside onion mixture.
Sauté potatoes in 1 tablespoon of oil in non-stick pan until lightly golden, but not cooked through. Set aside.
Sauté cauliflower in remaining oil. Set aside. In the same pan, sauté eggplant until lightly browned.
Brush chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with turmeric and paprika.
In large pot, spread sliced tomatoes along the bottom. Cover the tomatoes with the 1/2-cup of reserved soaked rice and sautéed onion. Arrange chicken over onions. Place eggplant slices and slices of garlic between chicken pieces. Distribute cauliflower over the top, then repeat with potato slices.
Press everything down in the pot with the back of a large spoon or spatula.
Spread remaining rice over potatoes. Sprinkle salt over rice. Add broth to cover. Place pot, uncovered, over a medium flame and let liquid simmer 15 minutes. Then cover pot, reduce heat and cook on low for 30-45 minutes. Add more liquid by tablespoons if needed to keep mixture moist, but be careful not to add so much that rice becomes sticky.
Take a round metal tray and place on top of pot. Flip pot onto tray. Pat the pot on the top and sides to release the food. Wait a minute, then pat again. Remove pot to display a lovely “cake” of makluba, ready to be spooned out to hungry family and guests. Garnish with toasted pine nuts if desired.
Any slightly burned rice from the bottom of the pot is considered a delicacy.
Serve with a simple tomato salad (like this one), and some good beer.
* Notes: Substitute broccoli or zucchini for the cauliflower. Feel free to add thick chunks of bell peppers if liked. If you prefer dark meat, pre-cook 6 pieces of chicken thighs and drumsticks in olive oil till almost done. You may use 750 grams – 1.5 lb. cubed lamb or beef instead of the chicken, but it must be braised till tender ahead of time (use cooking liquid in the Maklubah).