Saturday, April 7, 2007

Eggplant and rice (Makloobet betenjan) - How to make Eggplant and rice

Photo: Eggplant and rice recipe (Makloubeh or Maqluba)
Eggplant and rice (Makloobet betenjan), a much beloved Palestinian dish (the word means "upside-down") is a casserole dish made with a layer of diced mutton that has been sauteed in clarified butter, a layer of sliced onion and eggplant and another layer of saffron-colored rice. Before being served the dish is turned upside down onto a large platter and sprinkled over with pine nuts. Needless to say, as with all folk-recipes, this one has a nearly infinite number of variations.

Ingreidnets - Makloobet betenjan:
  • 2 cups basmati rice, well washed
  • 4 Tbsp. clarified butter
  • about 2 cups onion, diced
  • 1/2 kilo boned lamb shoulder, cut in 1 1/2 cm. cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small eggplants, sliced into rounds but not peeled
  • generous pinch of saffron dissolved in 3 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
Preparation - Makloobet betenjan:
  • Soak the rice in lightly salted lukewarm water for about 1 hour. Drain well.
  • In a large, heavy skillet heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter and in this saute the onions just until translucent.
  • Sprinkle the lamb generously with salt and pepper and add to the onions. Saute, stirring regularly until the meat is seared on all sides and the onions are golden. Add 1 tsp. of the cumin, the allspice and just enough water to cover the lamb. Bring to a boil and then lower the flame, simmering uncovered for 20 minutes.
  • In a large heavy skillet melt the remaining butter together with the olive oil. In this fry the eggplant slices, seasoning with salt and black pepper and the remaining cumin. When nicely browned drain the slices on paper toweling and set aside.
  • Sprinkle a 6 cup casserole dish with salt, spread the garlic on the bottom and then add the lamb and onions. Top the mixture with the eggplant slices and the rice. Pour over just enough of the stock to cover the rice, bring to a boil and then cover tightly. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is cooked and the liquids absorbed (about 1/2 hour, keeping in mind that the rice should remain somewhat moist). To umold, run a knife around the rim, place a platter on top and quickly invert (be sure to use a heat absorbent towel to hold the casserole) and then unmold. Sprinkle over with the pine nuts. Serves 4 - 6. 
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