Maqluba is a traditional Levant dish which consists of meat (usually lamb), rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot which is flipped upside down when served, making it quite impressive and delicious. This vegetarian/vegan version is equally as spectacular and requires little effort considering that this dish is a real centrepiece of any table. This rice is fragrant and the aubergines provide a sticky, chewy topping.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
2 medium aubergines or 3 small, cut into 2cm-thick slices
2 red peppers, sliced
leaves of 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 garlic bulb, cloves removed but with skin left on
2 medium beef tomatoes, thickly sliced
300g of white basmati rice
3/4 tsp of cumin seeds
3/4 tsp of coriander seeds
1/2 tsp of turmeric
2 pinches of saffron (if you have it)
500ml of vegetable/chicken stock
40g of salted butter/4 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of Aleppo pepper (pul biber) or 1/2 tsp of chili flakes
handful of chopped coriander leaves
Preheat the oven to 180.c
Slice the aubergines, peppers and tomatoes. Salt the aubergine slice (with just a sprinkle) and then place on a couple of sheets of kitchen towel to absorb the moisture that is released (this trick removes bitterness).
Place the aubergines and red peppers on 2 separate baking trays. Drizzle with olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt to the peppers and then add the thyme leaves to both vegetables. Transfer both trays to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Make sure to move the vegetables with a spatula so they don't stick half way through cooking. After 20 minutes has passed add the tomatoes to the peppers. At the end of the cooking period all the vegetables should be soft.
Whilst the vegetables are in the oven, rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water (to remove starch) , until the water runs clear. Once done place the rice in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. Drain the rice then set aside ready for cooking.
Once the vegetables are cooked, set aside to cool. Gently pop the garlic cloves out of their skins.
Toast the cumin and coriander seeds by placing them in a dry pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes (as soon as they release their aroma they are done). Grind in a pestle and mortar, then place in a jug with the rest of the dried spices and the stock, stirring well.
Melt 1/2 the butter/oil in a large saucepan (with lid) over a medium heat. Arrange the cooked aubergines at the bottom of the pan so they line it neatly (they will be on top when the dish is served). Next add the tomatoes, roast garlic and peppers.
Spoon the rice in and then pour over the hot stock with an additional 150ml of boiling water. Bring to the boil then gently cover the pan neatly with a few sheets of kitchen towel/a tea towel. Place a lid on the saucepan and cook for 25 minutes. Switch off the heat and leave to rest for a further 5 minutes before removing the paper or lid.
To serve place a large plate over the top of the pan and then quickly invert the pan. Remove the pan to reveal the rice with the aubergines on top.
Combine the remaining butter with the chili and drizzle on top. Sprinkle over the coriander and then serve.