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Maqluba [Ish] 

Alright, so the photo above is of a dish already dug into, but it was really good. Dubbed maqluba [ish] because it’s a play on the traditional maqluba, meaning “upside down”, made with rice.  Sara of Add A Little Lemon had the idea to replace rice with maftoul and it was as delicious as it was hearty. Maqluba has well known Palestinian variations, as well as distinctly Iraqi versions. The maqluba we served at the Supper Club Iftar to benefit families in Gaza was an Iraqi take using fair trade Palestinian maftoul, making the evening as multi-layered in culture and cuisine as the meal itself.  I’m grateful to Sara for brainstorming a menu that so beautifully captured the evening, and for sharing her recipe here.


One large pot with two handles and a large serving platter that is at least 3 inches in diameter larger than the pot. (Flipping is involved.)


Maftoul, 3 cups (1 box has two cups, uncooked)

Tomatoes, 2 to 3 thick slices

Eggplant,  2 thick rounds

Bell Pepper, 3 sliced

Jenin or Nabali Extra Virgin Olive Oil, generous amounts

Broth, vegetable or meat-based, 6 cups

Shallots, 5 diced

Onion, 2 diced

Parsley, 1 finely chopped bunch

Ground Lamb, 1 lb  (for the non-vegetarian option; Used here: Organic New Zealand  lamb)

Lemon, 2 lemons, juiced

7 Spices, 1 to 2 teaspoons (note specifications in the recipe below)


Black pepper







Vegetable are first roasted, each on separate cooking sheets or on foil. Once thick slices of tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers have been laid out, drizzle a generous helping of olive oil, or at least 2 to 3 tablespoons over each set of vegetables. Sprinkle with salt.  Bake in oven at 350° for 25 – 30 minutes, depending on size and thickness of your vegetables.

To prepare the main layer of maftoul, lightly brown shallots in olive oil in a pot or medium to large sauce pan.  Add the maftoul and 1 teaspoon of each of the seven spices. Toss the mixture to slightly toast the maftoul for about a minute over low heat, being careful not to burn the maftoul. Add either hot, pre-boiled water or broth. Leave on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until all the broth has been absorbed. Squeeze about half of a lemon to taste and fluff.

For the non-vegetarian option, prepare the ground lamb by sautéeing onions until translucent.  Add ground lamb, salt and same mixture of spices above (here, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each) along with parsley. Continue to fold ingredients thoroughly into the meat. Once cooked down, add the juice of 1/2 or up to 1 full lemon.

Now comes the time to layer.  Oil a medium to large pot with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Cover the bottom of the pot with tomatoes, followed by eggplant, bell peppers, lamb and finally maftoul. Pour a half cup of the remaining broth and cook on  low to medium heat for 20 minutes.

Leave on low heat until ready to flip and serve. You may also set aside if not serving immediately.


A flat or slightly rounded serving dish – just a bit concave, you know the kind: not flat, but not a bowl to ease the flip. Your pot of maftoul + layers is now set on a flat surface. Where a lid would have gone, place the dish on top, sealing the pot. Safely hold the handles of the pot with your thumbs and hold the bottom of the plate with the rest of your hands. This next move is super fast. Flip the pot away from you and make a wish! (Flip it away instead of  toward you to prevent the food from landing all over you!)

Serve and enjoy!

For more recipes by Sara, visit her blog Add A Little Lemon.

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