Recipe Corner: Annie Chekijian’s Ma’loubeh – Upside Down Pilaf


WATERTOWN — This Ma’loubeh – Upside Down Pilaf recipe from Annie Chekijian is featured in the St. James Family Table Cookbook from the Women’s Guild of St. James Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, MA. “This is a customary Levantine dish consisting mainly of rice, meat, and vegetables. The word name means ‘upside down’ because the ingredients are layered one on top of the other, and after it is fully cooked, the pot is flipped over and served that way,” says Annie. (This dish is often cooked with chicken, beef or lamb, but it is easy to omit the meat and keep it vegan. If you are following a vegan diet, you can make it with the vegetables only; chickpeas can be added as well.)

“The rice can be Egyptian or American short grain, and the vegetables can be cauliflower or eggplant (some cooks use potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, peas, and carrots). This is your chance to use any leftover vegetables that you have and make up your own combinations and creations. The best part of the dish is the flipping of it: you pull off the pot to reveal a steaming hot layered cake of rice, tender meat or chicken, and fragrant eggplant,” she adds.

Born in the Old City of Jerusalem, Annie Haroutiounian came to the United States in 1971 after marrying her high school sweetheart, Berj Chekijian. They have a son, Sarkis, and a daughter, Salpi, and “five beautiful Armenian-speaking grandchildren.” She has attended St. James Church services since the second Sunday she arrived in the United States. Annie has managed the parish Mesrob Mashdotz Institute that offers Western Armenian Language instruction for adults for nearly 30 years. She retired in 2016 after working for 45 years as a certified public accountant (CPA) for various firms.

“I enjoy teaching, tutoring, reading, cooking, baking, crocheting, entertaining and supporting the St. James Church as a volunteer when our Women’s Guild gathers to make manti, choereg, and simit during the year. Over the generations, many of my family members have made this recipe — probably since my maternal grandmother came to Jerusalem from Armenia and learned how to make it there. My mother was born in Jerusalem, too, and her four sisters (my aunts) also learned to make this recipe from my grandmother. A common dish in Middle Eastern cuisine, Ma’loubeh is a little more labor intensive than some dishes, so it is always a festive event when it is made. It is often served on special occasions and everyone has their own twist. This impressive dish is relatively inexpensive to make, and everyone likes it. If you do not like eggplant or cauliflower, you can still enjoy the rice and tasty meat,” she adds.


Get the Mirror in your inbox:

2 lbs. beef/steak cut into 3-inch pieces

3 cups parboiled rice, Ben’s Original™ or any substitute

2 medium heads cauliflower OR 2 large eggplants OR half each cauliflower and eggplant

1 stick butter

Vegetable oil

1/2 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

1 teaspoon black pepper

Salt to taste


Cut up the meat into 3-inch pieces. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each of allspice and black pepper. Add 5-6 cups of water and bring to a quick boil; lower heat and simmer until meat is tender, the time depends on the kind of meat you use. Drain the meat and save the broth.

Arrange the cut-up cauliflower florets and/or the sliced eggplant in a baking pan. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Broil on low and turn so both side are light brown.

Brown the meat in a 6-quart pot with 2 tablespoons of butter and arrange pieces evenly in the bottom. Layer it with the broiled cauliflower and eggplant. If using both vegetables, arrange each of them separately on the bottom.

Rinse the rice and spread it evenly on the meat and vegetables. Use 4 1/2 cups of the broth, add some water if you do not have enough to make 4 1/2 cups of liquid. Add the rest of the allspice, black pepper and salt to taste. Slowly pour on the rice, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, and the rice is cooked, like pilaf, about 35-40 minutes.

Remove the pot from the stove and let it stand (covered) for 10-15 minutes. Toast pine nuts or almonds in some oil. Add the butter, 3/4 of a stick left, to the nuts, and melt on low heat.

Invert the pot onto a large platter just like a Jell-O mold and lift the pot slowly; the end product should be like a cake with vegetable and meat toppings.


Note: You’ll need to be careful with this step. Uncover the pot and place a large, round serving dish face down on it. With both hands, grab the handles of your pot and the edges of the serving dish, and flip the entire pot upside down onto a table in front of you. It would be good to have someone standing by to help in case you feel like the pot or serving dish is slipping.


Sprinkle the nuts with the melted butter over the top of the dish. Serve with a fresh salad, Armenian bread, and yogurt, if desired.


Serves 4-6.

For information on the Women’s Guild, go to:

For similar recipes and how to assemble, go to:’loubeh%20is%20a%20very,an%20upside%20down%20Ma’loubeh

For a how-to video, go to:

Members of the St. James Women’s Guild


“Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.” Proverbs 31:19

ORDER TODAY: “The St. James Women’s Guild is over 75 years old, first started as a Ladies Auxiliary and Young Women’s Guild, and then blending into one strong organization called the Women’s Guild. These gifted, dedicated ladies have compiled a truly remarkable collection of 400 traditional Armenian, Middle Eastern and other favorite recipes — from appetizers to desserts. This cookbook honors the past and present, and is a loving tribute to some of the Women’s Guild’s greatest cooks. It is sure to be treasured for years to come.”

Purchase the St. James Family Table Cookbook and give as gifts for your family and friends throughout the year. Limited quantities are available.

Cookbooks and Aprons are $20 each ($28 if you would like it shipped). Please contact the church office with any questions: (617) 923-8860.

To order, go to:

St. James Armenian Apostolic Church

465 Mount Auburn St.

Watertown, MA 02472


(617) 923-8860



Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: