Rabiya (Fresh Fava Bean Maqluba)

Muzna Bishara

2½ hours

Serves 6-10

Rabiya (Fresh Fava Bean Maqluba). Photo by Matan Choufan.

Maqluba is the flagship dish of Palestinian cuisine. It is said to have originated in Jerusalem in 1187, and that it was Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria, who changed its name from baitenjaniyeh (eggplant) to maqluba (upside-down) when he requested some of that “upside-down dish” at the feast celebrating conquering Jerusalem. A classic maqluba, as its former name suggests, contains eggplant and caramelized onions. Over time, carrots and cauliflower were also added to the ingredients list and today there are also versions with potatoes, tomatoes, and even bell peppers.

The original maqluba was prepared with bulgur, which was widely available while rice was reserved exclusively for the rich. Over time, trade routes improved and rice prices dropped, and the grains quickly replacing bulgur in many Palestinian dishes. There’s even a proverb “العز للرز والبرغل شنق حاله” that translates roughly to: splendor for the rice and hanging for the bulgur. (Crushed by everyone’s adoration of rice, bulgur hung himself.)

Maqluba is traditionally served on Fridays, and you will find it served in most homes in the country on the first day of Ramadan, and several more times during the month. The following recipe is a hybrid between the classic maqluba and rabiya (meaning “spring”), another seasonal dish consisting of rice and fresh fava beans. Since this year the month of Ramadan is observed in the spring this hybrid offers a new and refreshing flavor.

Ingredients

  • For the lamb:
  • 50 grams (3½ tablespoons) butter
  • 1½ kg (3.3lb) lamb ossobuco (cross-cut veal shanks), about 4 pieces
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 fresh hyssop twigs
  • ½ tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 3-4 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 Allspice pepper
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole clove
  • 2 liters (2qt) water or lamb stock
  • Salt
  • For the Maqluba:
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups fresh broad bean, without the pods (or fresh/frozen broad beans/ peas)
  • 2½ cups basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1 teaspoon Baharat spice mix
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • Salt
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter
  • To serve:
  • 5 tablespoons pine nuts, almonds, cashews, or a mixture, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preparation

  1. Prepare the lamb: Melt the butter in a large pot until it browns, add the veal shanks and brown nicely on all sides. Add the onion and fry for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetables and the dry spices (do not add the salt yet), mix well and fry for 5 minutes. Pour the water to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Season generously with salt, cover, reduce to a low heat and cook until the meat softens and falls off the bone, 1½ hours.
  3. Remove the veal shanks from the broth and discard the bones. Shred the meat into pieces. Set aside a fifth of the amount in a separate bowl and cover with some of the cooking liquid (to serve as garnish). Strain the broth and discard the vegetables and spices.
  4. Prepare the Maqluba: Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan and add the broad beans. Fry until the beans soften, about 6 minutes. Release the large legumes from their outer skin. The small ones can be left as they are. (If using peas, skip the frying step and instead blanch them in lamb stock for 5 minutes).
  5. Rinse the rice and strain. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, Baharat, turmeric, salt, pepper and half of the broad beans and mix well.
  6. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large non-stick pot. Add the remaining beans, spread to an even layer, and top with the pieces of meat. Add the rice and spread to an even layer. Add 3¾ cups of the reserved lamb stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat, cover and cook until the rice is cooked through, 20 minutes. Let the pot stand, covered, for 10 minutes. 
  7. Meanwhile, toast the nuts in a hot oven or a dry skillet.
  8. To serve: drain and shred the reserved meat. Fry in a pan with 1 tablespoon of melted butter until nicely browned.
  9. Turn the pot onto a large serving plate and sprinkle the fried meat, nuts and chopped parsley on top.

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