BBC Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen is currently in Syria, reporting on the horrors of the civil war there. In addition to reporting for the BBC, he also tweets pictures of food.
I’ve sent plenty from Damascus. That’s partly because I think food tells you a lot about a society. But also because it is important to show how people live as well as how they die.
He has encountered disapproval from internet trolls and others for this, but he believes it is important to demonstrate that despite the all suffering, shelling, and devastation, everyday life still goes on, in spite of and because of, war. The markets remain open and people still shop for and prepare food: having a meal is a crucial social activity which binds people together. When in straitened circumstances, these societal rituals become even more important.

My husband heard Jeremy Bowen talking on the radio about his food tweets and was inspired to look up the recipe for a dish which Jeremy Bowen described: Maklouba or Maqluba - a Palestinian dish, also popular in Syria and Lebanon. The name means “upside down” in Arabic, and true to its name, the dish is inverted once cooked, and then left to rest a few moments to take shape of the cooking vessel. Once turned out, it has a crispy brown topping, garnished with almonds, cashews and pinenuts. It's a delicious "big" dish, fragrant with spices, and is very easy to make. It can be made with chicken, beef or lamb, and you could even omit the meat to make a tasty vegetarian version.

Chicken Maqluba (picture from

The best recipe I have found is this one, from Legalnomads blog

1 onion
2 medium-sized aubergines
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 medium tomatoes, thickly sliced 2 large onions, thickly sliced 3 medium potatoes, sliced - See more at:
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
3 medium waxy potatoes (Charlotte), sliced
3 medium tomatoes, thickly sliced 2 large onions, thickly sliced 3 medium potatoes, sliced - See more at:
1kg of meat (chicken, lamb or beef works) diced or cut into pieces. For chicken, use joints such as thigh or leg, and breast pieces (skinned)
450g (2 cups) of Basmati rice
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Baharat (“7 spices”). this can be obtained at most Middle Eastern grocers, but if not, make your own. The 7 spice blend is a mix of ground spices: black pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom.
2 bay leaves
1 litre chicken stock
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Sliced almonds and pine nuts.

  • Cut the aubergine into thick cubes, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven into just brown. (You could fry the aubergine, but I find it soaks up too much oil)
  • Place the cauliflower florets on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast until just browned.
  • Soak the rice in warm water with two pinches of salt and 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder and leave for 30 minutes.
  • Toast the almond pieces and pine nuts. Set aside for later.
  • Place the meat in a large pot/casserole dish and cover with the chicken stock. Add an onion chopped into quarters, the bay leaves, and Baharat spice mix, and cook until the meat is done, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove the meat and season with salt, saving the broth for later in a bowl.
Now build the dish.....
  • In the same pot (the one you used to cook the chicken), layer the cauliflower florets and aubergine in a desired pattern (remember this will be the top of the dish when you turn it out), then add the chicken pieces as another layer.
  • Spread the garlic cloves over the meat, and then arrange the rice over it all.
  • Add some salt and additional turmeric powder and cumin powder to the chicken stock, then pour it on top of the stack you have just built. Make sure the sauce just covers the rice (2cm over the rice is ideal).
  • Cook the saucepan on high heat for 7 minutes, and then cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  • When the water has fully evaporated (and the rice is fully cooked) take the pot off the heat and leave to cool.
  • Flip the pot onto a serving plate and slowly and carefully remove the pot
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and the toasted nuts.
Optional extras: chopped preserved lemons and a yoghurt, garlic, lemon and mint dip to have on the side, harissa.

Read an article by Jeremy Bowen in the News Statesman
Follow Jeremy Bowen on Twitter @BowenBBC

(DemonCook tweets as @CrossEyedPiano)


Popular posts from this blog