Maqluba is a Levantine dish that goes back to the 13th century. It consists of meat or chicken, rice, and fried vegetables arranged in layers in one pot then flipped when served, hence the name Maqluba which translates as "upside down". Maqluba is a savory cake! And like most cakes, it is often prepared for feasts, celebrations, and family gatherings.
This is my take on this traditional dish; I kept it healthy by using extra virgin olive oil and by roasting the veggies instead of frying them. I use chicken thighs because the bones are essential in terms of flavor. I flip it, finish it with toasted almonds, chopped parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and serve it with cold yogurt on the side. It is not a fast and easy dish to prepare, it really requires attention to detail and lots of love. Gather your loved ones around the table to flip your Maqluba, the aromas will be irresistible, the steam will fill the air, and believe me everyone would want to taste! Just like that, your hard work will be worth it.
Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt, black pepper, 7 spice mix, and cardamon. Place a large pot on medium heat and let it warm up, then drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Pan-fry the chicken in batches on both sides until lightly browned. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, loumi, cloves, chili, and water. Let it come to a boil while removing the scum that forms on the surface. Once the liquid is clear, close the lid, and simmer for 45 Minutes.
Later, strain the broth and set aside. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Discard the skins and bones.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C and line large baking sheets with parchment paper. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 cm thick slices. Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 1 cm slices. You can peel some of the skin if you prefer. Cut the tomatoes, onion, and bell pepper into 1 cm slices.
Arrange the potato and eggplant slices on the prepared baking sheets. Season with salt and black pepper and generously brush with extra virgin olive oil. Roast in the oven for 35 Minutes, or until tender. During the last 10 minutes, crank up the heat on high and place the tomato, onion, bell pepper, and chili on a prepared baking sheet on the lower oven rack. Turn the heat off.
Wash the soaked rice twice and drain. Transfer to a large heat proof bowl. Add the warm chicken broth, the 7 spice mix, turmeric, and butter. Stir until the spices and butter are dissolved. It’s very important to taste the broth to make sure that it’s well seasoned. Add salt if needed.
Time to assemble the Maqluba! Use a large pot, approximately 25cm diameter * 10cm height. Brush the pot with some extra virgin olive oil, and you can line its bottom with a circular parchment paper piece. Layer the roasted chili, tomato, onion, bell pepper, chicken pieces, and potatoes. Pat down firmly using a wooden spoon. Now start arranging the roasted eggplant, while overlapping them and letting them hang from the pot. You should create a “fan” with the eggplant slices around the pot. Now Add the rice along with the seasoned broth. Pat down the rice firmly. Close the hanging eggplant slices over the rice. Close the lid and place the pot on medium heat. Once it boils, lower the heat, and simmer for around 45 Minutes or until all the broth is absorbed. Keep the lid on for 15 minutes before flipping.
Get a large serving plate with slightly raised edges and place it on the pot. Use a kitchen cloth to hold the handles and keep the plate close to the pot. Carefully flip the Maqluba, tap all over the bottom of the pot, and slowly remove it. The Maqluba should come out like a cake! Finish with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, toasted almonds, and chopped parsley. Enjoy!
Serving Size serving
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.