cinnamon rice with cauliflower

This is apparently a Jordanian recipe, but we don't have any Jordanian cookbooks to check for comparison with Isgouhi's version. If Queen Noor had an e-mail address, we could try to use our common Princeton class of '74 connection to break the ice and ask her about it, but then she probably has more important things to do than internet food consultation with perfect strangers. We Americans think of cinnamon as a spice for sweet dishes, like our famous ("as American as ... ") apple pie, but this spice finds its way into many Middle Eastern entrees that are not sweet. This rice dish is one of our favorites frequently served at family meals.

The recipe proceeds in two parallel procedures which merge ingredients towards the end. We give small and large recipe ingredient quantities, some of which are not so critical in amount. The T and t spice quantities are meant to be rounded or heaping spoons, as usual with all of Isgouhi's recipes.

When finally we started looking for our own lamb meat to do this ourselves, we realized that lamb neck is really cheap in supermarkets, probably because most Americans don't know what to do with it. But there is only one neck per lamb so you have to be on the lookout for it. This is one of bob's favorite dishes at the in-laws.


1 small 1 large cauliflower
2 T 1/3 c veggie oil
1 lb 1 1/2 - 2 lb lamb stew meat or lamb neck
1 stick 1 stick cinnamon
2 2 bay leaves
2 2 whole cloves
2 - 3 2 - 3 peppercorns
4 T 4 T butter
1 - 1 1/2 c 2 c long grain rice
2 - 3 c 4 c water
1/2 - 1 t 2 t cinnamon
1/2 t 1 t allspice
1/4 t 1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t 1 t salt
1/8 t 1/4 t ground cloves


  1. Separate the cauliflower into florets and cut each one in half lengthwise. Steam the florets until cooked but still firm (maybe 5 minutes but check), or boil them just a few minutes to achieve the same result.
  2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan and place flat side down in the oil as many of the florets that will comfortably fit and leave them until browned on the bottom side. Then turn over to brown the other sides. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining florets.
  3. Meanwhile put the lamb meat in an open pressure cooker, just cover with water and bring to a boil. Then remove the meat and rinse it well in water to eliminate the yucky fatty stuff that boils off. Trim away excess fat that remains.
  4. Meanwhile rinse the rice by putting it into a bowl and filling it with enough water to just cover the rice and raking your fingers through it over and over to clean off the excess starch, then pouring off the water. Do this about 3 times until the water runs off clear.
  5. Return the meat to the pressure cooker, just covering with water, add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns and bring to full steam and cook 10-15 minutes (meat should fall off the bones if there are any). Then open.
  6. Drain the meat water into another pot through a colander or strainer to save it for later and dry the meat with paper towels so it won't cause the hot butter to splatter at the next step. The meat can be stripped away from the bone if one is present and cut into bite sized pieces if not already so at this point.
  7. Next melt the butter in a large nonstick pot (that is not too deep so that the final dish can be inverted easily onto a plate) and brown the stew meat in it.
  8. Mix the rice spices together and use in thirds at the next step.
  9. Put a third of the spices over the meat and arrange all the cauliflower on top of the meat (if too much cauliflower, reserve some to decorate the border of the final inverted dish) and then sprinkle another third of the spices over that layer. Spread the rice in a layer over the cauliflower and sprinkle the remaining third of the spices over it.
  10. Slowly add back in the meat water and enough additional water if needed to meet the rice liquid requirement (twice the amount of rice in liquid) without agitating these layers. Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat and then turn down to a simmer. Cook the rice about 20 - 30 minutes until the liquid is completely absorbed.
  11. Meanwhile when the water is half-absorbed, make about 5 holes in the rice in a star pattern down to the bottom with the handle of a wooden spoon.
  12. When the water is absorbed, turn off the heat and cover with a paper towel and put a heavy pot or tea kettle over it to press down the rice with its weight about 10 minutes.
  13. Serve by inverting onto a serving platter delicately, trying to keep the rice mass as intact as possible, and arrange any remaining cauliflower around the border. Choose your pot with this inversion step in mind (lower sides, large diameter).


  1. A variation of this is to omit the cauliflower and add in a large bottle of cooked (green) fava beans or edamame beans when the rice is added to the meat. Can also be done with eggplant, preferably the small ones: remove stem, slice 1/2 inch thick rounds, salt and pepper, squeeze, fry in veggie oil.
  2. Upside down chicken (Arabic name: ma lube, Lebanese, see Secrets). Another variation is to use chicken instead of the cauliflower, and an optional topping arranged artistically in a circle around the bottom of the pot for later inversion with the chicken also on the bottom is pinenuts and even almonds. The chicken breasts are brought to a boil and rinsed to get rid of crap, then bring to a boil again and boil for 10 minutes or so with cinnamon stick, bay leaf(s), peppercorns and cloves to give it flavor. Then the rice is cooked on top as above, but when done, the dish is inverted so the chicken and nuts are on top.
  3. Serve with plain yogurt on the side.
  4. Illustrations available.
caulirice.htm: 2-oct-2011 [what, ME cook? ? 1984 dr bob enterprises]