A Ma’loubé, literally translated as ‘The Flipped Upside Down’ is a typical Arab dish. Toppings range from eggplants to shrimps and everything in between, and then a bulk of rice. It’s called a Ma’loubé because essentially, the cooking pot is flipped upside down before the dish is served, resulting in a bulk of toppings over a heap of rice. ‘It’s to die for,’ some die-hard fans would exclaim, but I think it has too much oil and too much rice for its own good.
I obviously knew the time would come when I would readapt it and claim my recipe is much better. And it came indeed last week, by accident. I had cooked an eggplant-and-rice dish that a friend of mine attacked with a fork. After most of the pot found shelter in his stomach, “It sort of tastes like a great Eggplant Ma’loubé!” he said, and that’s all I needed to hear.
This meal will cost you around 6 USD. We will be cooking a vegetarian Eggplant Ma’loubé, as vegetables are cheaper, fresher and lighter. You can add some meat to the recipe (check annex) if you want, but we will be preparing a simple cabbage side salad to go with it.
Cabbage goes really well with eggplants. Cabbage is light. Eggplants are dense. Mix them together and it works. For the salad, chop your cabbage really thin, as in coleslaw-thin, and toss them in a bowl. For the dressing, I chose a vinaigrette consisting of one teaspoon Dijon mustard, one teaspoon minced garlic, three tablespoons of white vinegar, half a cup of olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin.
Now, for the Ma’loubé, you will need one large eggplant, one large onion, as much garlic as you like, two lemons and one cup American rice. Start off by chopping your eggplant into small cubes not exceeding half a centimeter each. It won’t ruin everything, but big chunks would sacrifice the texture. Texture is god. Don’t sacrifice it.
Spray your pot with PAM (non stick low fat oil spray) or dab some oil on a napkin and smear your pot. Heat it for about 20 seconds then throw in the eggplants. Add salt and pepper to taste and cover.
As the eggplants cook, dice your onions and mince some garlic then add both to the pot and stir the mix. The mix might try to trick you into pouring water, but don’t do that before it starts letting out its own. Eggplants and garlic are packed with water, so the trick is to let them cook in their own water for the first five minutes and then add half a cup of water and cover.
Now, breathe in, you’re halfway there, and it’s a nice place. Listen to:
Elli Ingram – Sober
Nina Simone – See Line Woman
Billie Holiday – All of Me
Loop to taste as you check on your mix. As it becomes slightly creamy and soft, add one cup of rice and stir well. Add some oil then two cups of water. Bring down the heat to a minimum. The rice should take between 10 to 20 minutes to cook, depending on the type of rice, the temperature you’re cooking at, and your personal taste of texture.
Once you’re done, add the juice of two lemons to the mix and stir. Some more freshly minced garlic, salt and pepper if you wish and you’re done!
If you want to serve it cold, add some fresh ground parsley to your dish after it cools down, so the heat doesn’t cook the parsley.
If you insist on a non-vegetarian Eggplant Ma’loubé, you can prepare some meat on the side. Get 250g of minced meat, one onion, salt and pepper for this carnivore annex. Chop the onion into tiny cubes, and then pour them into an oiled and heated pot. Once the onions start welting, add the meat and stir until it browns completely. Add some salt and pepper then stir some more, adding two cups of water. Cover your pot, and let the meat cook for around 15 to 20 minutes. Always taste the meat and monitor the amount of water in the pot. When you think it’s done, uncover the pot and let the remaining water evaporate.
You can do two things with your meat, serve it on the side or mix it with your dish. If you want to mix it, it would be a good idea to add it to your eggplants after they get soft and creamy, and stir before you add the rice then continue following the recipe above.