Ramadan Project: Syrian Makloubeh vs. Palestinian Makloubeh
For our Ramadan project week 3, Dima and I decided to share eggplant makoubeh (upside down).
Exploring eating cultures reveals a bit more about the rhythms of life. The cultures of the Levant share so many differences and similarities. Even though each one has had interactions with different ethnic groups, slight variations in produce seasonality and a different history, we share so many parts of our individual eating identities.
What I love about eggplant makloubeh is that both Palestinian and Syrians cook it exactly the same. We fry the eggplant until it’s silky smooth, pre-cook the meat in onions and spices, layer the eggplant and rice in a pot and cover the rice with the meat cooking liquid and simmer until it’s fluffy and delicious. It’s all topped off with crunchy toasted nuts, and if you’re lucky, some caramelized tomatoes. It’s the ultimate comfort food, and for many of us in the Levant, represents home.
The area of Homs (my parents hometown) in Syria is known for its sweet and delicious eggplants, and this dish is usually made in the summertime when eggplants are in season. In Palestine, Gaza is similarly famous for this vegetable. We’d love to hear your experiences with this dish! Tag #ramadanspecial2019, and we’ll share our favorites! My family’s recipe is listed below.
Silky eggplant is combined with meat, fluffy rice and caramelized tomatoes and topped with crunchy toasted nuts.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
1 kg/2 lb stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp 7 spices or all spice
4 tsp kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 kg or 2 lbs eggplant, about 2, sliced 1/2 inch thick
5 c vegetable oil or 2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp tomato paste
1.5 c short grain rice, such as Egyptian or Calrose
1/2 c parboiled rice, such as Uncle Ben's
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1/4 c toasted nuts, such as slivered almonds or pine nuts
1/4 c chopped parsley
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- In a large pot over high heat, add onions, meat, 7 spices, 2 tsp salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Cover the meat with water, about 4 c. Reduce to simmer and cook covered until meat is tender, about 1.5 hours. Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Drain meat, reserving cooking liquid, and store in the fridge separately.
- Prepare the eggplant. If frying, heat the vegetable oil in a pot over high heat until a piece of bread is dropped in and starts cooking immediately, or until it reaches 375F/180C. If roasting the eggplant, preheat oven to 425 F/210C. Place eggplant on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Cover and bake until soft, about 30-40 minutes.
- If stock is cool, measure 2 1/3 c and warm. Add tomato paste and 2 tsp salt. Taste the broth and adjust the salt as necessary (salt must be very obvious).
- On the bottom of a wide pot, layer sliced tomatoes, all the meat, half the rice, half the eggplant, rest of the rice and eggplant. Add measured broth. Place over high heat until it comes to a boil, cover with foil and lid and reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
- Can be made up to 2 hour ahead. Wrap the pot tightly with a blanket or towel so it doesn't cool. When ready to serve, uncover and place a large round serving platter over the pot. Make sure it fits comofortably. Flip, tap the bottom of the pot a few times, and remove. If any pieces are left in the pot, add them to the makloubeh. Top with toasted nuts and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil.