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A Celebration of Flavours and Family with Maqluba

By on January 21, 2014
Screen shot 2014 01 20 at 3.43.13 PM 300x336 - A Celebration of Flavours and Family with Maqluba

    Even if this massive savory cake doesn’t manage to keep its shape—and to assist with that, Sami swears, all members of the family must place the palms of their hands on the inverted pot and wait the specified three minutes—you are still in for a hearty celebration of flavours. Serve with yogurt and cucumber.

2 medium eggplants cut 0.5cm slices
1  2/3 cups basmati rice
6 to 8 boneless chicken thighs
1 large onion, quartered lengthwise
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 cups / 900 ml water
sunflower oil, for frying
1 medium cauliflower, 
divided into large florets
3 to 4 medium ripe tomatoes cut into 0.5cm thick slices
4 large cloves garlic, halved
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp baharat spice mix
3 1/2 tbsp / 30 g pine nuts, fried in 1 tbsp / 15 g ghee
or unsalted butter until golden

    Place the eggplant slices on paper towels, sprinkle on both sides with salt, and leave for 20 minutes to lose some of the water. Wash the rice and soak in plenty of cold water and 1 teaspoon salt for at least 30 minutes.
    Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and sear the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown (the chicken skin should produce enough oil to cook it; if needed, add a little sunflower oil). Add the onion, peppercorns, bay leaves, and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside. Strain the stock and reserve for later, skimming the fat.
    While the chicken is cooking, heat a saucepan or Dutch oven, preferably nonstick and roughly 9½ inches / 24 cm in diameter and 5 inches / 12 cm deep, over medium-high heat. Add enough sunflower oil to come about ¾ inch / 2 cm up the sides of the pan.
    When you start seeing little bubbles surfacing, carefully (it may spit!) place some of the cauliflower florets in the oil and fry until golden brown, up to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the first batch to paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining cauliflower. Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels and fry them similarly in batches. 
    Remove the oil from the pan and wipe the pan clean. If it isn’t a nonstick pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper cut to the exact size and brush the sides with some melted butter. Now you are ready to layer the maqluba. Start by arranging the slices of tomato in one layer, overlapping, followed by the eggplant slices. Next, arrange the cauliflower pieces and chicken thighs. Drain the rice well and spread it over the final layer and scatter the garlic pieces on top. Measure out a scant 3 cups / 700 ml of the reserved chicken stock and mix in all the spices, plus1 teaspoon salt. Pour this over the rice and then gently press it down with your hands, making sure all the rice is covered with stock. Add a little extra stock or water if needed.
  Put the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer; the stock doesn’t need to simmer vigorously but you do need to make sure that it boils properly before covering the pan with a lid, decreasing the heat to low, and cooking over low heat for 30 minutes. Don’t be tempted to uncover the pan; you’ll need to allow the rice to steam properly. Remove the pan from the heat, take off the lid, and quickly place a clean tea towel over the pan, then seal with the lid again. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  Once ready, remove the lid, invert a large round serving plate or platter over the open pan, and carefully but quickly invert the pan and plate together, holding both sides firmly. Leave the pan on the plate for 2 to 3 minutes, then slowly and carefully lift it off. Garnish with the pine nuts and serve with the Yogurt with cucumber.                                                      

Excerpted from "Jerusalem, A Cookbook" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Reprinted with publisher permission Random House of Canada Limited.


About Charleen Wyman

One Comment

  1. Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta

    January 26, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks for putting the complete recipe on your Facebook page. The baharat spices recipe is at the back of the book, or you can google one, which I did. Quick and easy to make. I made the maqluba last week and have a couple of comments. I did a half recipe, and it served the two of us generously for two meals, but it was hugely greasy done as directed. Problem is, eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge. What I plan to do next time is a) not bother salting and deep--frying the eggplant; instead, brush the slices with a bit of olive oil and bake for a few minutes instead. Also, it is important to skim the fat off broth made when you cook the chicken, especially if, like me, you use pieces (I used drumsticks as well as the recommended thighs) with some skin. I would also recommend maybe a bit more cauliflower. Oh, and if you use brown rice, it makes sense to cook it for 20 minutes or so before layering it with the other ingredients. Other than that, it was yummy, and much as I remember eating in Palestine.

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