Upside – Down Rice Pot with Spiced lamb and Aubergines (Maklubeh)

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This is such an impressive and beautiful dish. The best thing about it, of course, is the taste. It’s a combination of spiced lamb, aubergines and cauliflower, layered and then topped with basmati rice. You then turn the pot upside down on a round platter and there you have it. Food cake! The long list of ingredients are the spices used, to give the dish all those middle eastern aromas. It’s not at all difficult to put together but it does take some time in the kitchen. This dish is usually made with lamb but you could also use chicken. I am currently working on a vegetarian version of this fantastic dish, which will be posted in the very near future.

For the lamb layer

  • 800 grams lamb in 4-5 cm cubes (ask your butcher to do this). You can use lamb shoulder or leg.
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp all-spice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock (1 chicken stock cube, dissolved in 1 cup boiling water)

For the vegetable and rice layers

  • 1 large aubergine, diced in 2 cm pieces
  • 1 small cauliflower, divided in small florets
  • 1/3 cup olive oil plus 2 Tbs extra
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 red tomatoes, cut in 5 mm rounds
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • blanched roasted almonds and coriander leaves to serve

Method.

Mix all the spices for the lamb in a small bowl. In a large bowl mix the lamb with the spice mix, rubbing the meat with your hands to absorb the flavours. Season with salt and mix again. Leave lamb to marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably over night.

In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Fry the lamb in two batches, on all sides, until it’s lightly coloured but not cooked. Put all the lamb back in the pot and add the chicken broth, plus 4 cups of boiling water. Bring to boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for one hour, until lamb is cooked and meltingly soft (you could also do this is a pressure cooker).

Soak the rice in plenty of cold water, for one hour.

While lamb cooks, prepare the vegetables. Preheat oven to 230 C. Put aubergine and cauliflower in an oven tray. Drizzle with the olive oil and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once.

Drain the lamb but keep all the poaching liquid which is now a tasty broth. Measure the liquid. You should have 4 cups. Top up with water if necessary.

In a large pot, put 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion. Cook stirring for 2-3 minutes until soft. Season with salt and pepper and take off the heat. Add the lamb, aubergine, cauliflower, black pepper, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. Mix gently to distribute the spices.

Assemble the dish. Drain the rice and rinse well. Mix in a bowl with the melted butter. In a large skillet or pot, preferably non stick, add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Lay the tomatoes in the pan, one circle next to the other, until you cover the whole base of the pan. Top with the lamb and vegetables and spread evenly. Add the rice and spread. Pour over the 4 cups lamb broth. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the lid, cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel, put back the lid and let the dish stand for 30 minutes.

Turn the pot upside-down on a round platter. Sprinkle with roasted almonds and chopped coriander leaves and serve. One bite, and you will realise, that all the time you spent in the kitchen, was totally worth it.

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