‘Come on you too, Otis’, I am say trying to get my 1-year-old son to put his hands on the upturned cooking pot. Otis reluctantly dabs his hands onto the pot and then goes back to clapping, which he is rather good at. We lift the pot and there on the serving plate is a is the maqlooba. Roasted carrots, cauliflower and aubergines glisten through spiced rice that has all been cooked together.
It is by far and away my favourite food and it has been for as long as I can remember. When I want to celebrate, commiserate, recuperate, it is always want I want to eat. I cook it for my family on week night and I cook it to impress guests at the weekend, it is delicious.
There are many variations of Maqlooba- with meat, with chicken, without carrots, with onion, with tomatoes, without turmeric. But this is mine. This recipe is tasty enough for everyone to enjoy (Otis always polishes his plate off), but also easy enough to make for a week night and healthy enough that you won’t get mid-week bloat. It’s just perfect.
I have exquisite memories of my mum pre-frying the vegetables for Maqlooba and me- young girl- running into the kitchen at intervals to snatch pieces of fried cauliflower from the paper lined enamel trays that she used to place them on. My mother always religiously fries her vegetables, but I don’t in this version as I have my hands full in the week with Otis and its much quicker and easier to put things in the oven and wait for the timer.
2 largish aubergines
2 large carrots
1 large white onion
2 cups of basmati rice
1 heaped teaspoon allspice
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1 level teaspoon turmeric
1 level teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200c
- Cut the florets off the cauliflower and put on a baking sheet with salt and olive oil
- Cut the aubergine into 1-inch-thick 1 slices and put on a baking tray with olive oil and salt
- Peel and cut the carrots and cut them lengthways and across (each carrot into 4 pieces) and put on a tray with olive oil and salt
- Put all three trays into the oven for 20-30 mins, or until they are golden and the cauliflower is crisping.
- Meanwhile, rough chop the onion and fry in a large saucepan on a low/medium heat
- Once the onions have softened, add all the spices and the rice and cook over the heat for a few minutes turning.
- Add the vegetables from the oven to the rice and stir around.
- Cover with 4 cups of cold water (must be a 2:1 ratio to the rice) and bring to the boil over a high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce heat all the way down and cover with a lid
- Leave to cook until all the water is gone (about 20 minutes)
Serve with Salata Arabia and Greek yoghurt. You can turn the rice out onto a large serving plate as is traditional or you can just scoop it right out of the pan onto plates.