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Maqluba - "Upside Down" Recipe

Known as the national dish of Palestine, this hearty and homey dish combines the best of Middle Eastern flavours into one amazing meal! Maqluba literally translates into "upside down" and enjoys its name from the technique of cooking the dish with the rice on top and then serving it rice on the bottom. There are no rules when it comes to Maqluba except using veggies and rice. Traditional versions generally use lamb or beef, however the dish can also be made entirely vegetarian or vegan!

The star ingredient in the traditional Maqluba is the Desert truffle or Terfez. Not only do the truffles enrich the flavours of the meat used, they also provide a bridge between the rice, vegetables and spices. We were inspired by this Maqluba recipe in preparing our own Saharan Terfez and swapped out our usual Sunday family dinner menu for this Middle Eastern treat! Get ready to enjoy a feast for kings!

What you'll need:

  • half cup vegetable oil, divided

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

  • half kilo lamb, cut in medium-size chops

  • salt to taste

  • 1.5 teaspoon cumin

  • half teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

  • 3 cardamom, crushed

  • 1-3 bay leafs

  • 1 eggplant, peeled and sliced

  • 3 tomatoes, sliced

  • 2.5 cups cleaned and peeled Terfez* See below for directions on how to prepare the desert truffles.

  • 1.5 cup rice, thoroughly washed

The night before, place the whole desert truffles, approximately 8-10 for this recipe, in 6-8 cups of room temperature water. Let sit in water overnight. The next day, drain the water and peel the truffles using a vegetable peeler or paring knife. We used white and red truffles in this recipe. You want to avoid over-peeling the truffles and so we recommend the following guidelines: If using the red truffles, peel until light purple veins become visible. If using the white truffle, peel until the flesh is bright white and no longer creamy.

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan, add lamb chops and stir over medium heat for couple of minutes. Season with salt, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Remove meat from pan and set aside (the lamb rejoins the party in a bit).

In the same pan, sauté the onions, garlic, tomatoes and desert truffles for 5-10 minutes. You want the vegetables to get a nice caramelization and a melding of flavours happening. Remove these vegetables and set aside.

If you want to make sure not to waste any of the deep flavours, deglaze your pan with 1-2 cups of chicken or beef broth. We used a vegetable broth in our version!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In another pan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and add eggplant slices. Sauté both sides until golden brown. Place them on paper towel to absorb oil and set side.

In a medium sized pot, cook your rice. We opted for chicken stock instead of water and added some saffron and bay leaves for flavour. When your rice is ready its time to assemble the dish!

Layer your lamb chops, dessert truffles, cooked vegetables and eggplant slices in a glass dish. Pour in your lamb stock (made from your deglazed pan) and add the cooked rice. Add a small pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Place dish in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Let rest for at least 20 minutes and carefully flip upside down when ready to serve! For a hint of freshness, we topped our Maqluba with a spritz of fresh lemon juice and a dollop of plain greek yogurt.

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