Special occasions at home called for a very special dish – Maqlubi.
This remains my ultimate favorite Lebanese dish, full fragrant spices and aromas that always bring back the happiest of memories. Family members around a table, lots of loud and happy chatter, always a reason to celebrate. I distinctly remember getting told off for stealing all of mum’s roasted pine nuts while the rice was cooking, sorry mum!
Maqlubi is a typical Arabic dish, though different versions can be found across many Arabic nations. Today I’m honored to share a typically Beiruti recipe taught to me by my mother, who learnt it from my father, who learnt it from his parents and so it goes that the recipe has passed down through generations.
Maqlubi (or Maqluba) is composed of meat, vegetables and rice in a pot, which when served is flipped over into a serving dish, hence the name (bil-maqlub literally translating to upside-down!)
At home we always use chicken, Aubergine and white onion, but you can use lamb or cauliflower instead.
- 1 tbsp + 1tsp 7 Spice
- 1 tbsp Cinnamon Powder
- 1 tsp Allspice
- 2 small Cinnamon sticks
- 4 Whole Cardamom
- 2 tsp Salt & 1 tsp Pepper
- 1/2 stock cube
- 4 Chicken Legs
- 3 Aubergines
- 3 large White Onions
- 3 Cups of Rice
- 1/2 cup blanched Almonds
- 1/2 cup Pine nuts
- Ghee (or butter)
- Olive oil
Set the chicken legs in a pot on high heat and top with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and lower to a medium flame. Allow the chicken to cook undisturbed for 30minutes.
Keep on the heat and skim impurities off the surface of the water with a slotted spoon. Repeat until water surface appears clear.
Slice Aubergine into thick slices (about 1 inch). Sprinkle with plenty of salt and set aside to sweat (this removed excess water and reduces bitterness).
Add all spices to your chicken pot. Lower heat and cover the pot to simmer. The longer you leave your chicken, the better the flavor (typically 1-2 hours)
Pat aubergines to dry with a paper towel. Heat a tsp of oil in a pan, add aubergines in batches, keep to a single layer allow to brown; cook for 2 minutes per side.
In the same pan brown pine nuts and almonds with a tsp of Ghee (you can use butter instead).
Slice onions into 1 inch thick rings. Separate layers of rings and set aside.
Rinse rice thoroughly under running water to remove the starch.
After cooking take the chicken legs and place at the bottom of a very large pot skin side down. (Keep your stock for later!) Place a layer aubergines on top and then a layer of onions. Repeat the layers until you’ve used all your vegetables.
Spread your 3 cups of rice over the entire pot. Top this with 6-8 cups of stock that was previously set aside. Make sure that the rice is submerged and moves to the bottom of the pot. You can push the rice down with a fork or by shaking the pot. Add more stock as necessary to cover the rice.
Bring to the boil. Cover and lower heat to a simmer until all water evaporates completely.
To finish your dish place a large serving plate over the pot. Using a dishcloth to prevent burning and hold the plate over the pot and flip over. Bang the sides and the base of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the ingredients inside. Slowly lift the pot allowing the rice to settle at the bottom of the serving dish followed by the vegetables and the chicken.
Sprinkle with roast pine nuts and almonds and decorate with mint.
Maqlubi is served alongside Tabbouleh Salad, fresh yoghurt (preferably Labneh – a typically Arabic strained yoghurt cheese), sliced tomatoes, olives and pita bread. But if that sounds like a lot of work, rest assured it’s heavenly just on it’s own.
A dish worth every minute of love and dedication that you put into it.