When we visited our son last week in Israel, we ate outdoors at The Eucalyptus / in Jerusalem. We sat on a stone terrace surrounded by small art galleries, all, the rose-colored stone prevalent in the city.
My son ordered the maqlubah, an Arabic one-pot concoction where the meat and vegetables are layered, then rice is added with seasoned stock, that simmers stovetop until the rice is cooked through. Before the pot is then flipped onto a platter, forming a round cake, people are requested, according to traditon, to place their hands over the pot and make a wish.
Determined to try this at home, I looked a my Middle Eastern cookbooks, Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, and Tamini’s Falastin, as well as other recipes on line. There are as many spelling of maqlubah as ways to cook it. I originally intended to use lamb as the meat, but when I unrolled the beautiful piece of boneless lamb leg, I decided I didn’t want to risk drying it out in the stew. I instead prepared the meat for the BBQ and proceeded to make the maqlubah vegetarian.
Our friend David joined us, always up for an experiment, and helped me flip the pot, no easy task with a heavy, hot, 7 quart Dutch oven. He wanted the recipe– and I admitted I sort of winged it based on my reading and tastes. Here’s what I did but I suggest searching for your own combinations. I used one medium-sized eggplant, a pack of diced butternut squash, one cup of rice. It made a huge amount.
First soak rice in cold water and a tsp of salt for a few hours.
Then I lightly roasted sliced eggplant and diced butternut squash. Let cool.
Next I sauteed one large sliced onion and about 4-5 minced garlic cloves in a little oil in the large dutch oven. I added a drained can of chickpeas.
I added a bunch of spices– turmeric, coriander, cumin, a bit of cinnamon, s &p, hot pepper flakes.
Then I layered the eggplant on top of the onions and chickpeas, then the squash on top of the eggplant, then the rice- drained from its soaking water- and added 1 cup of homemade chicken stock with about 2 cups of water. You want the liquid to slightly cover the rice.
Simmer to boil uncovered, then cover, lower heat and wait about 30 minutes.
Using pot holders, invert quickly over a plate and slowly lift off the pot. I garnished ours with an almond- parsley mixture we had bought in the shuk, a shopping experience that tantalizes the senses.
Directions in the recipes are much more complicated. Lots of steps, frying the veggies, sauteing the meat, taking things in and out of the pot, using lots of oil. I did it my way and it was fragrant and fabulous. I am tempted to try other veg combinations.
My mom would have the loved maqlubah. A world traveler, she gathered recipes and cooking tips from place to place. Her recipes for Tunisian couscous and Jordanian chicken are included in her cookbook, A Glub Glub & A Shake Shake.