Makloubeh is a traditional Palestinian dish that gets flipped over when served—hence the name, which translates as “upside down.” In the middle east, especially in Palestine, they often make this dish for important events, such as Eid, Ramadan, and family birthdays as it’s a real labor of love. It is spiced rice, layers of tomato and eggplant sprinkled with melt-in-your-mouth lamb –or chicken, or you can make it vegetarian!
I made this last weekend and we were astounded at how good it was, but also the complexity of flavors created by the various cooking steps. No wonder this is a holiday dish!
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 2 hours
2¼ lbs (1 kg) lamb shoulder, cubed (I used lamb stew meat from a local farm)
2 yellow onions, quartered
1 cup avocado oil (tasteless and great for high heat)
3 eggplants, peeled in stripes, leaving some skin intact, then sliced into 1¼ inch circles
3 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1½ cups basmati (or any long grain) rice
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, fresh is best
½ to 1 cup whole skinned, blanched and toasted almonds (like marcona)
2/3 cup thick Greek yogurt, to serve
- Put the lamb and onions in a large saucepan, cover with water, and, without stirring, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour, or until tender. Remove any scum that appears on the surface and keep doing this until no more scum appears. Once the meat is cooked, transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon and reserve the cooking liquid. Note: if you make this with chicken, but I’d be careful to not boil it for more than 10 min. or it will get rubbery, then follow the directions.
- Heat a small amount of the avocado oil in a separate saute pan and shallow fry the eggplant slices for 3 minutes on each side, then drain on kitchen paper and season with salt to taste. Add more oil as you add more slices. This may use a lot of oil, but don’t worry, it won’t taste oily, and the draining will help.
- Mix the dry rice, 2-3 teaspoons salt, the cinnamon, pepper, and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Stir well to combine.
- Arrange the tomatoes in the base of a deep saucepan. I used my cast iron skillet, and it filled up. When you select your cooking pan, remember you will have to invert it, so think ahead to what platter you will use to be sure it is larger then the pot! Scatter a handful of rice over the tomatoes and layer half the lamb on top, followed by half the eggplant, then top with rice. Repeat these layers, finishing with a layer of rice.
- Now take the reserved cooking liquid and cover the rice, tomato and lamb layers so liquid is slightly –1¼ inch — over the top (add a little more water if you don’t have enough) and cover it with a lid. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a VERY LOW simmer. Cook over medium-low for 30 to 40 minutes, without stirring.
- Turn off stove, move to a cooler location, and leave to cool slightly, for 10-15 minutes. Then, place an upturned plate larger than the mouth of your pan on top and carefully turn everything over to flip the makloubeh onto the plate. Sprinkle with the fresh parsley and toasted nuts and serve with yogurt. You may need a bit more salt, depending on tastes.
We found the yogurt to be REALLY good with this, so don’t skip that part.
Wait for the expressions as they taste their first bite!
This recipe is from Joudie Kalla’s cookbook, Palestine on a Plate: Memories From My Mother’s Kitchen.