Palestinian Upside-Down Rice, Lamb & Aubergine (Maklubeh Bajinjan) is an impressive dish to serve – a turned-out-from-the-dish dome of rice and lamb wrapped in slices of silky aubergine – and a delight of really simple flavours that adds up to far more than the sum of its ingredients.
The recipe is from Ghillie Bassan’s The Lebanese Cookbook and is very straightforward to make. Originating in Palestine, this recipe is enjoyed across the Levant in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
Palestinian Upside-Down Rice, Lamb & Aubergine
Upside down and encased in strips of aubergine, maklubeh bajinjan is another Palestinian dish full of surprise with its sandwiched middle of minced lamb or chicken. It is prepared for special occasions. Serve with plain yogurt.
- 4 medium aubergines
- sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- 300 g/11oz medium or long grain white rice, well-rinsed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 250 g (9o z) minced lamb
- 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1-2 tbsp blanched almonds
- 1-2 tbsp pine nuts
- sea salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Partially peel the aubergines, leaving stripes of skin, and cut lengthways into long, thin slices. Heat sunflower oil for deep-frying in a pan and fry the aubergine in batches until golden. Drain and set aside.
Pour 850ml (1½ pints) water into a pan and bring it to the boil. Add the rice and boil for 1–2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed the water.
Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and stir until it begins to colour. Add the minced lamb and spices to the onion, and mix well. Stir the mixture over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the meat is cooked and dry.
Line a lightly greased dome-shaped tin or ovenproof bowl with most of the aubergine slices. Spoon some of the rice into the dome to fill it a third of the way up. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, then spoon it on top of the rice. Then spoon the rest of the rice on top of the lamb. Place the remaining aubergine slices on top of the rice to seal, and place the tin in the oven for 15–20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a small heavy-based pan and stir in the almonds for 1–2 minutes, until they begin to colour. Add the pine nuts. As soon as they begin to colour, transfer on to kitchen paper to drain and crisp.
Remove the tin from the oven. Place a plate on top. Using oven gloves, hold the plate with one hand and invert the dish. Ease the tin off. Garnish the dome with the toasted nuts, and serve.
The flavours in this recipe are simple but absolutely delicious. The lamb is delicately spiced with cinnamon and all spice, and the aubergine is silky soft.
Have you made this recipe? Do let us know in the comments how you got on!
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of The Lebanese Cookbook by Ghillie Bassan from publisher Lorenz Books. Recipe published with permission. Cover and book photography provided by Lorenz. Home cooked recipe photography, Kavita Favelle.