As you know, I’ve recently been thumbing my way through, Jerusalem, a cookbook by Yotam Ottalenghi and Sami Tamimi. Today I am sharing a slightly tweaked version of a traditional Arabic casserole. Maqluba means “Upside-down” and that’s exactly how this savoury chicken and veggie casserole is presented. Once cooked, the pot, layered with tasty food is flipped over and if luck is with you, the casserole drops out in one piece onto the awaiting platter. Last night luck was with us and, posted here you see the results.
Traditionally the veggies are fried before being layered into the casserole dish but I roasted mine instead. This way, less oil was used and the vegetable flavours were deepened and intensified during the roasting process.
Now, the list of ingredients might seem long and daunting but really, most of what you see below is various spices. They add distinctive flavours to this upside-down casserole making it hard to resist.
1 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1/2 ” slices
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 large onion, cut into quarters lengthwise
½ medium sized cauliflower, cut into florets
¼ C olive oil
1 tsp oregano
¼ tsp kosher salt & grinding of pepper
1 C basmati rice
8 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
¼ C cooking oil
1 ½ C chicken broth (or water)
1 small onion, cut into quarter sections
1 bay leaf
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp black pepper
Lay the eggplant pieces out flat on a piece of paper towel. Lightly sprinkle both sides with salt. Leave for 15 – 20 minutes. Beads of moisture will appear on the eggplant surface during this time. Pat the slices dry.
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Coat the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, onion quarters, and cauliflower with the olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Spread the veggies out on one or two baking pans lined with parchment paper and place on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven. Roast the vegetables for about 40 minutes removing individual veggie slices/pieces as they are done.
Cover the rice with water and leave it to soak for at least ½ hr.
While the rice is soaking and vegetables are roasting, heat the 2 T of cooking oil in a large heavy pan with a tight fitting lid. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides. Add the broth or water to the pan, along with the onion halves, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to a boil then lower the heat so the broth is just simmering. Cover with lid and braise for 20 minutes. Remove chicken using a slotted spoon and strain the chicken broth. Set both chicken pieces and broth aside for later use.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the casserole pot you will use to assemble the Maqluba. Select a pot that has a tight fitting lid and doesn’t slope inward from bottom to top. The sides should be straight up and down with the top opening of the pot being the same size as the bottom of the pot (see what I used pictured below). Spray the sides of the pot with cooking oil.
Now it’s time to layer the casserole. First place the roasted cherry tomatoes on the bottom followed by the roasted slices of eggplant. The chicken thighs come next followed by the roast onion sections and cauliflower florets. Strain the soaked rice and distribute it evenly across the top layer of the casserole. Press everything down firmly.
Add the remaining spices (turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and black pepper) to the reserved chicken broth and stir. Slowly pour enough of the chicken broth mixture over the last casserole layer to completely cover the rice. Cover the pot with its lid.
Place the covered pot on the middle rack of the 350 F oven. Bake for one hour. Leave it for a bit longer if there is liquid that still needs to absorb and reduce. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before flipping onto platter. Good luck but don’t worry; the Maqluba tastes great even if it’s not in one piece when served.
Garnish with lightly browned pine nuts if desired.
We have had hot muggy days over the past week; the type of weather that isn’t conducive to indoor cooking. Who wants to slave over a stove in the summertime anyway? Not me. Tabouleh is a perfect option when the temperature soars and there’s no need to even crank up a burner. Just use the kettle to boil water for the bulgur. That’s it! Even though tabouleh is a filling salad, the fresh mint along with the lemon juice in the dressing keeps it tasting light and refreshing.
3/4 C bulgur (cracked wheat)
1 C boiling water
1 C tomato, small dice
1 small red onion, fine dice
1/2 C red bell pepper, fine dice
3/4 C peeled & seeded cucumber, fine dice
1/2 C minced fresh parsley
2 T minced fresh mint
1 tsp kosher salt flakes
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 C lemon juice
1/2 C olive oil
Pour hot water over the bulgur and set aside for about 30 minutes. During this time the bulgur will absorb the water and soften up. Chill the prepared bulgur in the fridge for at least an hour before mixing with the remaining ingredients. I often prepare the bulgur the night before I make tabouleh.
Combine the tomato, red onion, bell pepper,cucumber,parsley, mint and kosher salt.
In a separate container mix together lemon juice, olive oil and chili powder.
Add the chilled bulgur to the vegetable mixture and combine with the prepared dressing. Chill before serving. Garnish the salad with sprigs of fresh mint.
Recently my friend Pat lent me her copy of Jerusalem, a cookbook by Yotam Ottalenghi and Sami Tamimi. It’s full of stories and great recipes. I’ve adapted this recipe for the traditional lentil and rice pilaf, popular throughout the Mediterranean, by tweaking the spicing to suit my own palate. I also used canned lentils that were already prepared. The crispy onions add texture and sweet flavour making this hearty dish something special!
4 cooking onions, sliced very thin
3 T white flour
1 tsp salt
½ C oil
1 can of cooked lentils
1 C cooked brown rice
3 T olive oil
1 T mustard seeds
1 T coriander seeds
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
First prepare the crispy fried onions. Mix together salt and flour then sprinkle over the sliced onions and toss. Heat oil and fry the onions until they are crispy and golden brown. It takes about 7 -8 minutes. Give them a stir now and then. The flour tends to stick to the bottom of the pot. Just keep scraping it up. These little bits will brown and add crunch to the finished dish. Drain the crispy onions on paper towel and set aside.
Rinse and drain the lentils – set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the mustard and coriander seeds. Stir over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop then add the remaining spices. Continue stirring for a minute or two then add the drained lentils, cooked rice and half of the crispy onions.
Combine it all together. (I didn’t have any coriander so I used Cilantro Paste instead and added it to the mixture at this point).
Salt & pepper to taste. Serve heaped into bowls and garnished with the remaining crispy onions. Glenn likes some heat so he adds some Sriracha hot sauce to his bowl at this point!
We use the left-overs for lunch the next day. I create wraps using large sized tortillas filled with the mejadra, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato and then dressed with the following sauce:
2 T mayonnaise, 2 T sour cream (or plain yogurt), 1 T cilantro paste, 2 T Sweet Thai chili Sauce
Hummus is another item we make often. Versions of hummus first appeared in Cairo during the thirteenth century. It’s a dish that has definitely stood the test of time and now shows up on menus all around the world. A simple dish, hummus is a spread made from five basic ingredients: chickpeas, sesame seeds, olive oil, garlic and lemon.
1 15 oz. can cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
4 – 6 cloves of garlic, crushed through a garlic press
¼ C olive oil
Juice of one lemon
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 T tahini
¼ tsp salt (or to taste)
Place all of the above ingredients into a blender (or food processor) and blend until the chickpeas have turned into a paste and are well blended with the other ingredients. If you use a blender you will have to stop the blender to scrape down the sides a few times until the chickpeas are broken down into a paste. Place hummus in a bowl or on a platter, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with black olives. Serve with pita bread or as a dip beside fresh veggies.