Upside Down Rice
A Palestinian rice dish with surprising layers of vegetables throughout. "Maqluba" means "upside down" in Arabic. This recipe is given the name "maqluba" because the dish is assembled in a pot, cooked on the stove, and then the pot is flipped upside down onto a serving plate, revealing layers of vegetables embedded in the rice!
What is Maqluba?
Maqluba is a Palestinian dish in which meat and/or vegetables are layered in the bottom of a pot and covered with rice. When the rice is cooked, the pot is flipped upside-down and removed, revealing the hidden layers of vegetables/meat. Can you guess what the word "maqluba" means in Arabic? It means "upside down" or "flipped"!
Traditionally, all of the vegetables and meat in maqluba are fried before arranging them in the pot. Frying takes a lot of time and effort and so I find myself hesitant to try any recipe that necessitates frying. Although it is not the traditional method, in this recipe, the vegetables are tossed in oil and spices and baked until tender and golden (much less messy and probably a whole lot healthier 😉).
The recipe I'm sharing today is vegan, however, any vegetables and/or meat (including ground beef) can be used. I recommend including fresh tomatoes and caramelized onions, as they add some fresh sourness and sweetness that brighten up the whole dish!
The first time I made maqluba, I was so proud of myself! I asked one of my Palestinian friends for an authentic Palestinian recipe and she gave me a recipe for maqluba. The recipe was in Arabic, which wasn't a problem because I can read Arabic, but it was clearly written by someone who already knew all of the ins and outs of what "maqluba" is, and I couldn't make heads or tails of it.
After a lot of googling for images and recipes written in English, I was able to get a pretty good idea of the method of cooking it and how to put it together, but I didn't manage to find any recipes with spices that seemed truly authentic that didn't use a strange size pot..? Finally I found a recipe for a shawarma spice mix, and that spice recipe seemed closest to the spices in the recipe my friend had sent me months before. So I decided it was finally time to put all of those recipes I'd been looking at together - based on the size of MY pot and the vegetables I thought would be tastiest!
The first time I made it, I was pretty sure that the vegetables and rice would stick to the bottom of the pot and not come out looking like a beautiful rice cake. My husband was pretty skeptical too and I told him that, even if it doesn't come out of the pot looking pretty, it'll still taste amazing. In all honesty, those words of reassurance were more for me than they were for him.. But it did come out! and it has every time I've made it! The trick is to make sure that the bottom of the pan has a good layer of vegetables or meat. The other, equally important trick, is to turn the pot upside down onto a plate and LEAVE IT THERE. Seriously, don't even peak! I know it's sooo hard not to just take a tiny peek, but I promise you that if you turn it over and leave it alone for 3 minutes, you'll be so glad you did when you remove the pot and see your beautiful creation.
The pot needs to be left where it is - DON'T JIGGLE IT either. As it sits there upside down, the contents of the pot slowwwwly loosen and slide down onto the plate exactly in the shape of your pot (Thank you gravity!) If you jiggle the pot, or take a peak, you risk causing some of the rice to loosen and fall before the rest of it does, causing the whole thing to collapse!
The second time I made maqluba, I got fancy and added eggplant around the side of the pot before adding any of the rice. I encourage you to google "maqluba" or "maqlouba" for decoration inspiration and ideas for what kind of vegetables or meat to use.
Take your time and remember to breathe while you're assembling the layers in the pot. Just remember that, whether it comes out looking the way you dreamed or not, it will taste amazing! And it has a good chance of turning out beautifully if you force yourself to leave the pot alone while it's upside down.
Good luck and happy cooking!
Maqluba is a Palestinian dish in which meat and/or vegetables are layered in the bottom of a pot and covered with rice. When the rice is cooked, the pot is flipped upside-down and removed, revealing the hidden layers of vegetables/meat embedded in the rice.
This recipe is vegan, however I'd encourage you to try adding meat and using chicken broth in place of vegetable broth if you like!
For the spices:
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp dried coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp pepper
- 3/4 tsp paprika
- 3/4 tsp cloves
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp white pepper *optional - increase the amount of black pepper if not using
For the rice:
- 1 and 2/3 cup long grained rice, rinsed until water runs clear
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil – for tossing vegetables
- 1 or 2 medium Onions, cut into 1/4 in slices (if you like caramalized onions, use 2!)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil for frying onions
- 2 medium eggplants, cut into ¼ in. slices
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced into 1/2 in. slices
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (garnish)
- 1/4 cup cashews, toasted (garnish)
Step by Step Instructions
Preheat oven to 425F. Rinse the rice, then put the rinsed rice in a pot and cover it with water. Stir in 1 tsp of salt and let the rice soak
Mix all of the spices, except the salt, together in a small bowl
Toss all of the vegetables, except the tomatoes, with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 3 Tbsp of the spice mix, and a ½ tsp of salt. Lay the vegetables out in 1 layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20-30min. Flip the vegetables part way through. They are done when they are turning golden and are tender ( I had to use 2 baking sheets to fit all of the vegetables) It may take up to 50 minutes or more to achieve golden perfection, depending on the oven and how tightly packed the vegetables
While the vegetables are roasting, heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a 3 quart pot and sauté the onions until brown and caramelized (adding a pinch of sugar will speed up the process). Remove the onions to a plate once caramelized
Drain the rice
In the same 3 quart pot that you used to sauté the onions, make sure there is a thin layer of oil covering the bottom (if you plan to decorate with vegetables on the side of the pot, use a paper towel to spread the oil up the sides of the pot as well - this will help the vegetables to adhere to the sides of the pot and stay put before the pot is filled with rice to keep them in place) This oil will ultimately guarantee that your vegetables don't stick to the pot when it's time to turn the dish out onto a plate
Arrange a layer of eggplant and tomatoes in the bottom of the pot (and opptionally on the sides) and cover it with 1/3rd of the rice. (These vegetables on the bottom of the pot will end up on the top of the rice, so take some time to arrange them in a nice pattern if you want)
Cover the first layer of rice with the cauliflower and half of the caramelized onions, then layer another 1/3rd of the rice on top
Layer in the rest of the eggplant and caramelized onions and cover it with the rest of the rice
Mix the last 2 Tbsp of the spice mix with 4 cups of broth. Add 3 cups of spiced broth to the filled pot (or add broth until there is just half a centimeter of space left in the pot). Using a chopstick or knife to make small holes down to the bottom of the pot will help the liquid soak down to the bottom
Turn heat up to medium high until the broth begins to boil, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook on low for 30 min. Check the rice half way through and add more broth if the rice looks too dry and crunchy on top
After 30 min, take the pot off of the heat and let it rest, covered, for 10 min
Remove the lid and place a large serving plate over the pot. Flip the pot over onto the plate and leave it upside-down for 3 minutes to allow gravity to do its thing. No peeking!
*Be sure to leave the pot alone for 3 whole minutes after you flip it. Don't peek at it and don't jiggle or pound on the pot. Just take some deep breaths and trust that gravity will do what gravity does 😉
**If you want your middle layers of vegetables to be visible when you turn your maqluba out, try to push the vegetables up against the side of the pot when you layer them
***Maqluba is great with seasoned yogurt! take plain regular or greek yogurt, add a pinch of salt and pepper and a couple shakes of garlic powder. For even more flavor, add chopped cilantro or dill, or both!
Let me know if you made this recipe and what you thought of it!
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