Ma’aloubet Batinjan is a very traditional Middle Eastern dish. Most of the Arab countries prepare it in different ways. The spices could differ from one country to another, and the presentation might differ too. My way of making ma’aloubet requires some preparation, but the end-result is delicious and the final presentation is so appetizing. You will be proud of this plate on your table if you have an invitation. Ma’aloubet batinjan is naturally gluten-free and since I am not using butter in this recipe, it is also dairy-free. I am offering this plate to my family with cucumber and yoghurt salad (kheyar bi laban).

Ingredients (for the eggplant preparation)

Yields: 6-8 portions

- 4-5 medium size eggplants
- 1 cup oil for frying

Ingredients (for the rice)

- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 tbsp. vegetable oil (I use canola)
- 500 gr. Lean beef, cut into very small chunks (you can use minced meat, but I prefer it this way)
- 1 cup long-grain rice
- 2 ½ cups chicken stock (make sure it’s gluten-free) or water
- 1 tsp salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp curry powder
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- 2 tbsp. pine nuts
- ½ cup mixed nuts like blanched almonds and pine nuts for garnish

Method (for the eggplant preparation)

  1. Peel the eggplants and slice into ½ cm thickness.
  2. Wash well and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Heat some oil (1/4 cup at a time) in a frying pan and fry the eggplant slices in batches.
  4. Lay the fried eggplant slices on paper towels.

Method (for the rice)

  1. Put the oil in a pot on the heat.
  2. Add the diced onions and ½ tsp salt and stir well until the onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Add the pine nuts and stir well for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the diced beef and stir well.
  5. Let the beef cook for few minutes, until browned from all sides.
  6. Add the remaining salt, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and curry powder.
  7. Stir well.
  8. Add the rice and mix it with the meat very well.
  9. Add the chicken stock or water and let it come to a boil.
  10. Lower the heat and cover the pot and let the rice cook slowly for around 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  11. Put off the heat and let the rice rest for 15 minutes. 
  12. Dry toast the nuts in a frying pan without adding any oil.

Assembling the Ma’aloubet

  1. Use a mold or a round oven tray to assemble the ma’aloubet.
  2. Lay slices of cooked eggplants at the bottom of the tray.
  3. Line the whole mold or tray with eggplant slices and let them overlap.
  4. Make sure the sides are covered too.
  5. Spread the rice mixture over the eggplants slices.
  6. Let the rice spread evenly.
  7. Cover the rice with the remaining slices of eggplant, and make sure to cover all the sides.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven on 200 °C for about 20-25 minutes.
  9. Turn the eggplant mold unto a serving plate and garnish with the toasted nuts.
  10. Serve with green salad or cucumber with yoghurt (recipe follows)



Cucumber with Yoghurt (kheyar bi laban)

Ingredients

- 1 kg of plain yoghurt
- 6-7 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried mint)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- ½ tsp salt

Method

  1. Put the cucumber, fresh or dried mint (I prefer fresh), crushed garlic, and salt in a big bowl.
  2. Add the yoghurt and mix well.
  3. If you feel that the mixture is very thick, you can add 2 tbsp. cold water.
  4. Some people add lemon juice, but I prefer without.
  5. This is the traditional Lebanese way of making cucumber with yoghurt.