Feeding people and sharing food is a form of charity in the Islamic faith. In a Prophetic narration, the Prophet Muhammad is reported as saying: “The best of you are those who feed others.” (Ahmad)
Just like any other child, I did not have the best of relationships with vegetables; in particular eggplants. Maqlooba was a dish I used to always turn away from due to the fact that the core ingredient was either eggplants or cauliflower.
That all changed when I travelled to Jordan during one of my school summer holidays to visit family. I stepped into my grandmother’s kitchen and saw her magic at work from frying the eggplants to flipping the pot upside down. Once it was all plated & I had a bite, I knew I had a new favourite.
My connection to this dish strengthened when my grandmother told me that the first dish she taught my father was Maqlooba.
My father would later on go to study a Telecommunication Engineering degree in Moscow during the Soviet Union era. He has always been a social person so we he would gather all his Arab & North African colleagues in small university dorm room and cook Maqlooba for them.
He became so good at it that decades later when he would go on charitable trips in the field, he would gather all the people in a village where they were distributing aid and start cooking Maqlooba for them in extra-large cauldrons. When he could not find white rice, he would substitute it with basmati but nonetheless, everyone enjoyed it. He even has the video footage in Indonesia to prove it!
All that said, there is no doubt that my mother is the cook in the family. Amongst her countless tasty dishes, I would consider Maqlooba as one of her specials. My cousins always eagerly anticipate Ramadan waiting for the Iftar invite over to our place as the main dish for the night has always been Maqlooba, and they love it.
No matter how bad a day I have, if I go home and find that she’s cooked one of my favourite three dishes: Mansaf (Jordanian style), Makhshi Koosah (Stuffed Zucchinis) or Maqlooba, she manages to turn my frown upside down.
Omar Al-Jamal is the Digital Marketing Co-ordinator at Human Appeal Australia. His mother taught him how to cook Maqlooba for the first time for Recipes For Ramadan. Human Appeal runs an annual campaign to support the world’s poorest during Ramadan #feedthefasting. The Al-Jamal’s family recipe for Maqlooba can be and a demonstration of how to cook it can be found at www.RecipesForRamadan.com.
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