Maqluba – Red Pepper and Aubergine Savoury Cake
An easier, veggie method of Maqluba (an ‘upside down’ one pot savoury cake), which if made properly takes around a fortnight to prepare. I, like many of you, have not got a lot of time in the kitchen. I work in a kitchen so days off are spent trying to stop myself thinking about food, new recipes etc. This is a difficult task and if Im in the house, the kitchen calls! This also leads to me eating far too much.
This savoury cake is real festival food, real party time on a plate. The flavours are an awesome mix and as a centre piece on a table would grace any vegetarian banquet. It just looks so very cool, all those layers and roasted sweet veggies.
I like to streamline things, I love the idea of food heritage and recipes being handed down through generations. The providence of dishes are essential to maintain their relevance to a culture, food expresses who and where we are in the world. We are proud of it and rightly so, all cultures have explored their local produce and experimented to the point of culinary excellence and deliciousness. Even in Britain, we are pretty handy with potatoes and meat (ps thank you France for the culinary invasion and dragging us away from fish and chips. Roux brothers, that’s you, the pioneers and saviours of our food ‘culture’).
I have to say that one person who most excites me in the modern food game is Mr Yotam Ottenleghi. He is a modern day Roux brother of sorts, responsible for a wave of interest in changing our perceptions towards the foods of the Southern Med. I have always loved food from this area and surround, but Yotam has taken my understanding of it to another level. It’s fruity and spicy, nutty and floral, very sweet and very sour, all avenues of flavour are explored and utilised in the cuisine, its also screams with colour. It’s such a fertile area, great produce abounds at the markets. Historically, the cultures are old, real old. You feel that in the food tradition, where feasts are prepared and savoured in a similar way, I’d imagine, to those of the distant past. The romance of food is alive in the rituals of preparation and the coming together of family and friends in the kitchen and around the dining table.
This take on Maqluba is one such dish. Having said that, it is historically a dish that is quick and easy for mothers to get together, we certainly have less time on our hands in Westernised countries than others. What a shame! I can think of nothing more rewarding than preparing a dish with love and attention throughout the day for my loved ones.
The daily shop in Lebanon
Sometimes I wish we could cut the internet to the Beach House. This would certainly free up some time, but then the Beach House Kitchen would disappear and I enjoy this blogging game far too much for that, meeting all of you wonderful folk from around the world is a real pleasure. You inspire me! It’s a modern conundrum indeed!
So I’ve taken the best bits about this traditional dish and had a play with them, it still makes something quite spectacular and I don’t think you lose much flavour by cooking the rice seperately. I have incorporated all the ingredients at the end and given them a quick steam with rose water which brings things together nicely in a floral fashion.
Depending on your taste and dietary persuasion, you may like to substitute the brown rice for good basmati rice. This does absorb greater flavour and is a little more tender.
I resisted adding cheese to this dish, but a creamy goats cheese could be used instead of the yoghurt. Next time, this will be done.
The frying pan you use should not be too deep, the more shallow the pan, the easier it will be to turn out the final cake. It looks a million dollars this dish when you get it right.
Yotam down at the market
If you like the sound of this, you may also enjoy these recipes:
Imam Bayeldi (Turkish Stuffed Aubergines)
Welsh, Leek and Feta Pie
Murcian Sweet Potato and Manchengo Burgers
2 large tomato (1cm slices), 2 large aubergine (width ways – 1cm slices), 1 red pepper (cut into thin slices), 1/2 cauliflower (cut into small florets), 1 leek, 1 teas cinnamon, 1 teas ground cardamom, 1 teas turmeric, 1 teas all spice, 1 teas bharat (spice mix), 1/4 teas black pepper, 2 leeks, 1 teas lemon zest, 1 cup creamy yoghurt, 1 teas rose water, 1/3 cup crushed toasted almonds/ almond flakes
Rice – 1 1/2 cups brown rice (wholegrain), 2 3/4 cups good veg stock, 5 peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, 1 handful dried cherries, 1/2 teas turmeric, 2 red onions (finely sliced), 3 cloves garlic (crushed), 1 knob unsalted butter, 3 tbs cooking oil (for frying)
Topping – crushed toasted almonds/ flaked almonds, with Yoghurt and Cucumber (mix together with a little lemon juice and salt and pepper) and more sour cherries
Soak rice in salted water for a few hours before cooking,
In a saucepan, begin by frying off onions gently until golden in equal amounts of butter and oil (1o-15 minutes), add your garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and turmeric, stir through and heat for a minute, then add your rice and coat well, leave to warm through for 2 minutes and then add 2 1/2 cups of stock (save a little). Bring to a boil and cover tightly, lower heat to minimum and cook for 30-35 minutes. Brown rice takes a little longer than white.
In a large frying pan, fry off your vegetables in sets. Have a warm plate with cover ready. Start with peppers, aubergine and then tomato. They will all take differing times, tomatoes only take a minute each side. You’re looking for some charred edges, but not completely cooked, a higher heat will achieve this. So its burnt, but not that burnt, what a great rule!
Pour boiling water (from the kettle) over the cauliflower florets and leave for 10 minutes.
Lastly fry the leeks until soft and golden, then add cauliflower and all spices and heat for a minute, then take off the heat and stir in the yoghurt. and lemon zest. Cover and set aside (you’ll need another warm plate here).
Now we’re ready to layer. Wipe out your frying pan, begin by scattering in a generous amount of almonds, then place the tomatoes over the base. Leave spaces between them, this is going to be the top of the cake, so make it nice! Then add your aubergine and then pepper, then spoon on your leek mix on top of that, spread evenly. Now fluff your rice and spread evenly over the top, press down gently to get it all nicely packed in. Now get the pan warm again, and pour over 1/4 cup of stock and the rose water, cover with a suitably sized plate tightly and warm gently on the hob for 10 minutes to get all the flavours mingling.
Leave to rest for 5 minutes and then place your hand on the plate and invert the pan in one smooth motion (easier said than done). A swift action is needed here so think it through! Place on down on a work surface and tap the bottom of the pan with the base of a wooden spoon, rolling pin…….something hefty. I leave it for a few minutes to sort itself out and settle.
When ready to serve, take off pan and you will have a lovely looking layer rice cake awaiting.
Maqluba -with dried cherries and almonds
Warm with scattered dried sour cherries and more almonds.
We Love It!
We sure do! This is a feast, a one pot wonder, sure beats a hot pot! The flavours here are quite incredible and this is something very special. A special occasion treat and the rose water adds something quite special to the Maqluba.
Rose water is used widely the cuisine of the southern Mediterranean and Iran and all the way to India, it is a magical ingredient and must be used sparingly, especially in a savoury dish. A little goes a long way.
Rose water is very simple to make, distill rose petal and there you have it! It is used in cosmetics also, but I prefer putting it in desserts! What a waste of good rose water!
In India they use rose water to clear irritations of the eye, so its versatile too!
If you’re in the UK, Yotam has a brilliant programme on 4od where he travels to variosu countries and creates some real food magic. Check it out Yotam’s Mediterranean Feast here.