The maqluba or maqlube is a typical Palestinian dish, better known in the western world, as Arabic paella.
It may not be possible to construct a description in words that do it justice. The combination of flavors and textures of this dish is unmatched by any other. Without detracting from the paellas, the maqluba is unforgettable.
This wonderful dish is very old, and one of its earliest recipes is found in the famous Baghdad cookbook, dating back to the 13th century. Normally, there are many variations of the recipe, in the ways of preparation, and in the ingredients.
What is a Maqluba like?
When trying a maqluba, the combination of ingredients could indeed remind you of the Valencian paella. Since this recipe contains rice, chicken, and vegetables. But only these ingredients are similar.
The presentation of the maqluba is impressive, and it is not for less, since this dish is prepared on festive occasions. The word maqlube means in Arabic (to turn, or turn around), which refers to the final cooking phase, and to the presentation of this dish. The maqluba is, in principle, a turned rice cake.
The maqluba is made in parts. To make a maqluba, you must first prepare the meat. Then, separately, the rice, and finally the fried vegetables. The broth used to cook the meat, in the case of lamb, will be the water that will be used to cook the rice. All these ingredients are arranged in a pot, where the final cooking of the maqluba takes place. Thanks to this cooking, the maqluba is compact, and it is easy to serve it upside down.
What are the ingredients of maqluba?
Although there are many variations of the recipe, including vegetarian versions, there are some ingredients that are present in almost all maqluba recipes.
- Rice, long-grain, basmati type. Without a doubt, this is an ingredient that cannot be missing in the maqluba.
- Meat. Although there are some vegetarian versions of the recipe. It usually contains some type of meat. The meats used are lamb, beef, or poultry meat. It is possible to use only one type of meat or to make some combination of them. For example, chicken and lamb. The most important thing is that the meat is very soft and well-seasoned when assembling the maqluba pot.
- Vegetables. The most widely used vegetable is aubergine, sliced, fried. There are also variations that use fried cauliflower florets. Or a combination of both, cauliflower and eggplant. On the other hand, tomato and onion are used to flavor the rice broth.
- The spices. Like all Arabic cuisine, this recipe contains a fine blend of spices known as Ras Al Hanut. Ras Al Hanut contains turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.
To prepare this recipe you will need a cake pot, or a pot with metal handles, rice, chicken, aubergines, and spices
ARABIC PAELLA: CHICKEN MAQLUBA
2 bone-in chicken breasts, 1.2 Kg
3 cups of basmati-type rice, 480 g
3 large aubergines , 450 g
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
3 tomatoes, 200 g
1 onion, 80 g
3 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup coriander leaves
1 fresh turmeric root
7 ½ cups of water
1 cup of peeled almonds, toasted
½ cup of oil
4 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground green cardamom
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves
Ras Al Hanut
Wash the aubergines very well, and cut off the upper stem. Then, take two aubergines and cut them lengthwise into thin slices, less than five millimeters thick. Then cut the last eggplant into wheels, the same thickness as the previous ones.
Sprinkle a little vinegar over the aubergines to prevent them from turning black.
Pour a little oil into a skillet over medium-high heat. When it is bubbling, place the slices of aubergines, in batches. Cook for about two minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove them from the pan, and place them on a plate covered with absorbent paper. Repeat this procedure with all the slices of aubergines. Reserve.
In a small bowl, combine all the Ras Al Hanut ingredients.
Peel the garlic and mash it.
Rinse the chicken breasts under running water. Dry them well. Cut them into pieces of a maximum of three centimeters. Finally, season them with crushed garlic, salt, and Ras Al Hanut.
Add a little more oil to the pan where I cook the aubergines, and when it is very hot, place the pieces of breast. Brown them on all sides. Let them rest on a plate covered with absorbent paper while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Peel the tomatoes, onion, and turmeric root. Then, put these vegetables in the blender glass, along with two cups of water (reserve the rest of the water for cooking the rice), the tomato paste, the coriander leaves, and the salt. Beat for about three minutes. Reserve.
In a large pot, add the remaining oil, and turn the stove to full heat. When it is hot, add the rice, and brown it for a maximum of three minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Add the remaining water and the tomato juice that was blended in the previous step. Cook on uncovered high heat for about seven to eight minutes, until all the liquid evaporates. Turn off the stove. There will be a lot of moisture on the bottom, this is correct. Do not worry.
Preheat the oven to 160 ° C / 320 ° F.
Choose a metal pan or pot where you will assemble the maqluba and spread it with oil. Then place the long slices of aubergine, from the center, towards the walls of the pan. Make sure they stick well. Cover the rest of the base of the mold with the eggplant cut into wheels.
On top of the aubergines, distribute the chicken pieces evenly.
On top of the chicken, place the rice. Compact on top with a kitchen spatula. Make a little pressure so that the rice covers all the empty spaces. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
Take the maqluba to the oven and cook covered for about half an hour. Then remove it from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.
Remove the foil, and place a large flat plate on top of the pot. Flip the pot on the plate, so that the aubergines are on top like a cake. Top with finely chopped cilantro and toasted almonds.