I am planning to make my mother’s signature dish Mevlubi again this weekend for our family’s Eid, end of Ramadan celebrations. The recipe comes from Antakya, the Southern part of Turkey, where my roots are from. This special dish makes an appearance in every special occasion on my parent’s table and I have been lucky enough to enjoy it with some of you over the years. As you can cook ahead of time, this wonderful all in one dish makes an impressive main course and you get to spend more time with your company. For maximum results, please cook on low heat, at least 2 hours before serving and let the Mevlubi rest. We may not be all together physically, but through our food, we will capture and remember special memories.
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Serves 4 people (generously)
About 500 gr/1 1/4 lb chicken thighs or breasts or pieces of steak or lamb, flattened
2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced as half moon shape
2 small/medium eggplants (aubergines), sliced crossways
1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
350 gr/12 oz/ 1 3/4 cups medium grain rice
900 ml/ 3 3/4 cups hot water
Bowl of warm salted water to wash the rice
1 tablespoon of butter
Sunflower oil for shallow frying
Salt and pepper to taste
For marinating the meat:
15 ml/ 1 tablespoon plain yoghurt
15 ml / 1 tablespoon olive oil
5 ml /1 teaspoon cumin
5 ml / 1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon of red pepper paste or
10 ml/ 2 teaspoon tomato paste + 5 ml/ 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinate the meat pieces mixing all the marination ingredients above a day in advance, making sure that all meat pieces are well coated. Chicken thighs work better than the chicken breast, bring out more flavor. Cover and keep in the fridge until cooking.
Slice the eggplants (aubergines) in half moon or circle shape, about 2 cm thick. If possible cut the eggplants a day in advance, lay on a tray and sprinkle salt over. Let them dry. Squeeze any water remained on them with paper towel. If you don’t have time, you can slice the eggplants and put them in a bowl of salted cold water for 15 minutes. Then squeeze and dry them with paper towel.
Sauté the eggplants (aubergines), potatoes, onions and the meat (all separately) in the casserole pan you will be cooking with the rice. We shall be using this very same pan to cook our dish. Do shallow frying not deep frying (make sure you have enough oil for eggplants though, since they soak oil a lot). Drain the excess oil by placing them on paper towel. You can do this phase a day in advance and keep all these in the fridge if you’d like.
On the casserole pan, layer the meat pieces to cover the whole surface. Then layer the eggplant slices over the top and then the potatoes slices and the onions evenly.
Soak the rice in warm salted water for 15 minutes, then drain this water and rinse the rice with cold water. Spread the rice over the potato layer evenly. Add hot water over, season with salt and pepper and cover. First start cooking on the medium heat, once it starts bubbling, keep on cooking on the low heat until the rice is cooked and all the water has been absorbed. Then put a tablespoon of butter in the middle of the rice and push down towards the middle. Add two tablespoon of hot water over the rice and cook for another 10-15 minutes on a very low heat. Once the rice is fully cooked, turn the heat off, put a paper towel over and cover with the lid tightly. The rice will keep on cooking with this steam. Make sure you cook the Mevlubi about 2 hours before you serve. That will give it a chance to rest and all the flavors blend together.
15 minutes before serving, reheat the casserole pan on a very low heat. Once it is hot, turn the casserole pan over a big serving plate or tray gently. With the moisture it has, it should come out like a cake. Non-stick pan work well, steel is good too.
I love how the whole meal is combine into one beautiful pie. The spices sound terrific and the addition of eggplant and potatoes sounds like it would add a richness to the dish.
Thank you very much for your kind comment; this is a signature dish in Antakya, south part of Turkey, where my roots are from. The eggplants and potatoes come out as tasty as the meat in the pie, with all the juices blending together, hope you give it a go sometime 🙂
I am going to try your version of this recipe.. which in the middle east is referred to as Makloob. I like yours because it is so simple, and you don’t even have to semi/full cook the chicken. But have a question I am confused as to how long to cook the rice, is it a typing error that you say to cook the rice for 2 hours while you meant to type to cool for 2 hours.
Turkey is one of the places I would love to visit, and who else but you would be the perfect person to acompany on this adventure.
I am delighted to get your kind comment, thank you very much. You are right, I meant Mevlubi to be rested for about 2 hours prior serving, I just retyped that part, I hope it is clearer now. It is truly a special dish, I look forward to hearing your experience on cooking Mevlubi. Also, many thanks for your kind words, I would be delighted to have a chance to explore Turkey together, perhaps in the near future. My best wishes, Ozlem
Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe. I had a Turkish theme dinner party and this was the main event. I was a little nervous about the flip, but it came out perfectly, almost, out of the pan.
My guests loved the different flavors and textures that composed the dish. It was a hit!! I have left overs which I’m sure will taste even better than last night!!
Thank you again.
Dear Addy, so kind of you to write back, I am delighted to hear you enjoyed the mevlubi, one of our favorites!
This looks delicious, and perfect for a family get-together. Does it work to cook it the day before? Does it re-heat successfully?
On a different subject: I was in Turkey (Dalyan) last year and tried to buy a Kozmatik for cooking aubergines. Although they knew what I was talking about, none of the shops stocked it and I was told it was ‘finished’. Do you know if this excellent utensil is still obtainable – perhaps in bigger towns?
Merhaba Dido, thank you for your note – yes you can cook Mevlubi ahead of time, the day before should work. Next day, I would add a few tablespoonfuls of water and re-heat on a slow heat – you may add a little more water depending on the serving size – fantastic dish for entertaining.
Re Kozmatik, it is a bit of hit and miss i am afraid, bigger towns and bigger supermarkets tend to have it, especially in summer time with bbq etc, really a neat gadget. Hope you can get it next time, Ozlem
Çok teşekkürler! I’ll definitely do the Mevlubi for our family get-together, and for the Kozmatik I’ll try again when we’re in Turkey this September.
Rica ederim, Afiyet Olsun and my best wishes, enjoy Turkey in September – a great time to visit! Ozlem
First of all. Your recipes are so good that I would like to thank you for sharing them.
Last night I did your “mother signature dish”; Mevlubi. I only had less than 1/2 pound of Lamb Leg, but this was enough for the recipe. Also I cut the potatoes in half moon and place them in a safe bowl and warm in the microwave for 10 minutes ( just to have them soft) before I follow your procedure of sauté them. I love to use lots of spices on my cooking, therefore while I was sautéing the potatoes as well as the eggplant I season them with parsley, cilantro, oregano, onion powder, salt and pepper. Finally I follow your procedure of layering and cook on my stove. I used 2 cups of Basmati rice and 4 cups of water. My dish came delicious and thanks to you.