Recipe: Jordanian Maklouba, Upside Down and Delicious

Categories Food, Jordan

Like many neighbouring countries in the Levant, Jordan is known for its dips and tiny, tasty dishes called mezze. Scattered on the table in bowls and mopped up with fresh pita or saj breads, meals begin with an overwhelming array of options. Mouttabal to tabouli, hummus, labne and a variety of other rich and creamy appetizers, each with its own distinct taste but fitting seamlessly, one after the other, into a crescendo of flavours. To start each meal with an assault of tastes seemed decadent at first but quickly became the norm, setting the stage for the more complicated, show-worthy main dishes.

Foods from Jordan

Foods from Jordan

(Yes, yes I do love collages, thank you very much.)

There are many foods from Jordan that are simple to cook, braising meat with spices, serving over rice or another grain or wrapped in a steaming saj bread. But maklouba (and the even more ornate mansaf) is not one of them. Literally meaning ‘upside down’ dish, maklouba features roasted vegetables, a meat of choice and an accompaniment of spiced rice. But it is presentation that counts here, because these ingredients are not plated side by side. No, that’s too easy. Jordan clearly took a look at pineapple upside-down cake and scoffed “please, we’ve done this for hundreds of years – with meat.”

Ladies and gentlemen, maklouba:

Maglouba in Jordan

Upside down and delicious

Please note that this can also be spelled magloubeh, maglouba, makloubeh and ma’aloubeh.

Maklouba is pre-cooked in segments, vegetables first and rice second, folded with a mix of traditionally Middle Eastern flavours – turmeric, cumin, sumac and cinnamon, depending on the recipe. Piled artfully into a pot and cooked over the stove, the whole lot of it is tipped upside down on the plate once complete, revealing the patterns of meat and vegetables below. The rice (used to getting its own plate) is relegated to second billing. Sorry rice – the chicken-eggplant-cauliflower combo is just too good to ignore.

It’s not a difficult dish to make, though it does take separate pots to get it right and takes a few hours. Presentation, however, is key: when you up-end the pot as you serve the dish, you want a neat pile of veg and meat to stare at. Not spilling everything out as you flip over the pot is also key; let’s just say when I tried this at home, the first iteration ended up on the floor.

Spices for maklouba

Spices for maklouba

It’s been fun to experiment with different versions of maklouba, building a tapestry of colours and textures that is only visible when I flip over the dish. I’ve tried it frying up the onions with turmeric first, rendering them yellow, and leaving the rice white. Another version included curls of eggplant skin to add some purple to the end result. Lots of room for creativity here!

Recipe for Jordanian Maklouba

(Adapted from Beit Sitti Cooking School, with some changes)

Ingredients:

1 onion

2 medium sized eggplants

1 cauliflower, cut into small florets

1kg of meat (chicken, lamb or beef works) diced or cut into pieces

2 cups of plain rice

4 cloves of garlic

2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp Baharat (“7 spices”). Note: this can be obtained at most Middle Eastern grocers, but if not, you can make your own. The 7 spice blend is a mix of ground spices: black pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom. Go easy on the cardamom if making your own – it’s quite strong!

2 bay leaves

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

Optional (but it’s good, trust me): sliced almonds and pine nuts.

Preliminary steps:

  • Peel and cut up the eggplant into thick horizontal slices and marinate them in salt for 2 minutes. Wash the eggplant in water to get rid of the salt, and then drain the slices over paper towels.
  • Soak 2 cups of rice in warm water with two pinches of salt and 2 teaspoons turmeric powder and leave for 30 minutes.
  • In a large saucepan, fry the cauliflower florets and eggplant slices until brown. (Alternatively, these can be roasted.) Put in a strainer until completely drained.
  • In the same pan, heat the almond pieces and pine nuts until they are fried. Set aside for later.
  • Place meat into a large pot and cover with water. Add in an onion chopped into quarters, the bay leaves the 7 spices mix and cook until meat is done, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove the meat and season with salt, saving the broth for later in a bowl.

Time to build your pot:

  • In your large pot (the one you used to cook the chicken), layer the cauliflower florets and eggplant in a desired pattern, then add the chicken pieces as a third layer.
  • Spread the garlic cloves over the meat, and then arrange the rice over it all.
  • Add some salt and additional turmeric powder and cumin powder to the chicken stock, then pour it on top of the stack you have just built. Make sure the sauce just covers the rice (2cm over the rice is ideal).
  • Cook the saucepan on high heat for 7 minutes, and then cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  • When the water has fully evaporated (and the rice is fully cooked) take the pot off the heat and leave to cool.
  • Flip the pot onto a serving plate and slowly and carefully remove the pot leaving a your masterpiece in its wake.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and the fried nuts.
If anyone tries this at home, please send me your photos to jodi-at-legalnomads.com and I’ll add them here – I’d love to see what fun upside-down deliciousness you come up with.

-Jodi

I visited Jordan last year as a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, so the Beit Sitti cooking class was offered to me free of charge. Also free of charge was the ability to drop my entire maklouba on the floor when I tried the recipe at home.

30 comments to Recipe: Jordanian Maklouba, Upside Down and Delicious

  1. oh yum, jodi!! will have to try this! thanks for the yummy recipe.

  2. Looks yummy and as a Jordanian, I must say that you have done a great job describing Maklouba! Thank Jodi

  3. This looks scrumptious! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  4. Gorgeous collage! Everything looks delightful:)

  5. That collage of dips made me drool on my keyboard and this recipe is definitely on my to do list! Living in Japan, the land of 2 spices, makes me really want to learn how to cook more spice-heavy cuisines.. knowing my current cooking skill level, however, my first attempt will probably also end up on the floor (and somehow in my hair).

  6. On January 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm gene in montreal said:

    thank you jodi. marvelous!

  7. I just read this while starving for lunch, middle eastern food it is!!!

  8. Looks deliciously similar to Lebanese food (my favourite alongside Vietnamese). I especially love how this recipe calls for tumeric, which is so very good for you. I’m going to have to try this recipe very soon!

  9. On January 30, 2012 at 8:32 am Burhan Gharaibeh said:

    Yes, I bet the spices are similar to those used in some Lebanese dishes. I call Maklouba Jordanian Paella! I know there is no sea food in Maklouba but the fried veggies blend with rice and chicken somehow give that flavor.

  10. On January 31, 2012 at 9:44 am Burhan Gharaibeh said:

    Jodi: I am envious! Enjoy!
    I wonder if we should call paella Spanish Maklouba! considering Arabs where in Andalus for such a long time… Just kidding…A joke with some of Spanish friends.

  11. I really wish I’d eaten before I read this. Looks absolutely delicious! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe – I have bookmarked so that I HAVE to give it a try.

  12. Thanks a lot for sharing this precious recipe. i am definitely going to try at this weekend.

  13. Jodi,you are an inspiration to me.For having the courage to quit a high paying job and travelling solo for so long! I love the way your content is intelligent and articulate.If you ever come by India,don’t forget to stop by! I’m currently living in Gurgaon,Haryana which is near Delhi.

  14. Wow this looks delicious…too bad I can’t cook at all. Might have to enlist a friend to help.

  15. Jodi, this looks sooo good! My Mom has been making me Pineapple upside down cake for years. It’s something that is always served whenever I come home from somewhere overseas :)

  16. Hi Jodi, Melissa here from Food Bloggers of Canada. Just popping by to let you know we’ve added you to our Membership Directory (due to your nomadic nature we changed you to “Canadian Abroad” :)). Welcome aboard!

  17. I’ve just returned from Jordan. I can’t believe I missed this! Will have to have a crack at the recipe.

    Love the blog, kind regards, Si

  18. Mmm, my Jordanian friend’s mum made this for us – she was very upset when it didn’t bind together though. But didn’t make a difference to me – it was deelish!

  19. That looks amazing. Yum. It’s making me hungry! Thanks for sharing.

  20. I’ve recently started dating a Jordanian man and was looking for a traditional dish to make for him. This sounds perfect – thank you for posting.

  21. I had this at a multi-ethnic potluck last summer and it was amazing! My kids loved it, too, and wanted more! The Jordanian woman who made it provided a very vague recipe (I bet she’s made it so long, she doesn’t even use a recipe anymore!) and I needed something with a bit more detail than “chicken, spices, vegetables.” haha Thanks so much for posting the recipe and the process. (And I have to believe that some of your upside-down floor maklouba was salvageable. It’s just too sad, otherwise!)

  22. That looks great!! I used to live in Jordan, so I’ve eaten maklouba a lot and it’s one of my favorite foreign dishes! :)

  23. Hey Jodi! Just got back from Jordan and Maklouba was my FAVORITE dish. I got to have it with a local family which was the best part. Thanks for posting the recipe so I can attempt to make it myself! :)

    • Glad it was a fave for you too. It’s been fun to try at home and make with patterns on the bottom of the pan. It’s like a small gift whenever you turn over dish to serve – always fun!

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