Moghrabieh, Couscous of the other end of the Mediterranean



One of the misconceptions I come across when I speak to people about Syrian cuisine that we must eat loads of couscous. When I mention that Syrian cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine, some people here in England automatically assume that we share the rolled semolina with the North Africans. Many get surprised when I say that couscous doesn't exist in Syria. The majority of Syrians didn't even hear of couscous, let alone cook with it.

Having said all of that, we kind of have couscous after all. Our own version that is.

Moghrabieh is another form of rolled semolina but considerably larger grains. It is more popular in Lebanon than it is in Syria. The name Moghrabieh means Moroccan which indicates, unsurprisingly, its Moroccan origin. I don't really know if Moghrabieh grains where originally brought from North Africa in its current format, or did we import the concept of rolling semolina and adapt it to our taste.

The grains themselves vary in size, so they don't always cook evenly. They retain a chewy starchy consistency when cooked. More dumplings than couscous.

Moghrabieh is available in London from Damas Gate in Shepherd's Bush or Green Valley in Edgware Road.

The traditional way to cook Moghrabieh include chicken, lamb or combination of the two. The cooking process is long and a bit complicated so I tried to simplify it here. The dish needs fragrant spices. I like to use a combination of caraway seeds, allspice and cinnamon.


Here is my recipe:

Moghrabieh 350g (two cups)
Lamb cubes 400g (and/or chicken)
Shallots 6 - 10 depending on size
Chickpeas 1 can drained
Flour 1tbsp
Cinnamon 1tsp
Caraway seeds 2tsp crushed in a pestle and mortar to release the flavour.
Allspice 1tsp
Salt to taste
Stock cube (optional)
Water
Olive oil

Start by browning the meat in some olive oil in a heavy bottom pot or a casserole dish. Remove the the meat from the pot. Peel the shallots whole and brown in the same pot. Return the meat and add all the spices, salt stock cube and the flour to thicken the stew. Cover with boiling water. Bring back to boil then reduce the heat and let simmer till the meat if fully cooked. Be generous with the water as you will need some of that stock to finish cooking the moghrabieh later. Towards the end add half the chickpeas.

In another pot boil some salted water and add the moghrabieh. Cook as if you are boiling pasta. It will need to cook for 30-40 minutes. Taste the grains every once in a while till cooked to your taste. Drain and return to the pot. Add the rest of the chick peas and couple of ladles of the stock. Cook on medium heat till the moghrabieh absorbs most of the stock.

Spoon the moghrabieh in a serving dish with the some of the meat arranged on top. Serve the rest of the stew on the side.

29 comments:

Chow and Chatter said...

oh this looks great must look for some in Winston Salem NC!

tasteofbeirut said...

Hi there! I remember seeing a documentary by Chef Ramzi in Beirut; he went to a place that makes the moghrabiyeh and they explained the origin of the name and so forth. It did turn out that the founder did travel to Morocco but the actual grains that is made in Syria and Lebanon and Palestine was made way before that trip! I found out too that they make it with semolina and also with wheat. I had a Syrian friend from the Huran who used to make it at home

Joy said...

So good to learn more about this product. They are so small it is amazing they take so long to cook! I like thinking about them as little dumplings.

Shadi said...

This brought back memories, deep in the memory lane!
My grandmother used to prepare it from scratch, magically transforming wheat to Maftoul!
It is worth mentioning as well, she refered to it as "maftoul" -she is from Safad, Palestine-!
And usually she prepared two versions, this one, and a sweet one which is Maftoul with hot milk spiced with cinnamon.
It has been many years! MANY THANKS!

Kano said...

@Chow and Chatter

Best of luck with that!
Try google, you can buy Moghrbieh online.

Kano said...

@tasteofbeirut

Thank you for the information. Would love to try some freshly made moghrabieh. I only tried the dry variety.

Kano said...

@joy

They are indeed little dumplings. They will be great in stews and soup.

Kano said...

@shadi

You welcome!

I should have mentioned it is called Maftoul in Palestine.

The sweet version sounds great. I will try soon.

Choclette said...

Just discovered you blog and it brings back great memories of an old Syrian boyfriend I had when I was a student - he was a fantastic cook. I shall definitely be paying regular visits here. I am now a vegetarian, but still churning out great Tabouleh - as taught at the time.

Kano said...

@Chocolette

Welcome to my blog and sorry for the late reply. I was on Holiday and just got back last night. I hope you try some of the recipes.

Syrian cuisine is great for vegetarians. Almost half of my recipes here are vegetarian. Just click on the vegetarian label.

http://syrianfoodie.blogspot.com/search/label/Vegetarian

tasteofbeirut said...

Hi Kano
I have given you an award. (check my blog today)
All the best
Joumana

Kano said...

@Joumana

Thank you very much for that. Really appreciated.

Sandra said...

Hello from New Zealand and thanks for this recipe. I lived in Beirut for a couple of years and an Armenian friend there prepared moghrabieh for me and let me watch her in the kitchen. She said Armenians eat it like Italians eat spaghetti!
My daughter works in a Mediterranean food shop that stocks moghrabieh so I shall get cracking now I have a reasonably straightforward recipe.
I was also lucky enough while in Beirut to have an Algerian-French friend make couscous.
One of the nicest things about travelling is trying all the food.
Best wishes and ma'salaamah on a great blog.

Kano said...

@Sandra

Thanks for the nice words and welcome to my blog.

Belive it or not, I never tried the fresh variety. It will be interesting to see the difference in texture.

I hope you try it. Let me know how it goes.

Samah said...

This looks great! I'm actually making this as we speak - but my own version!! I'll be posting it on my own food blog if you'd like to check it out, pass by anytime :) www.samahsrecipes.blogspot.com

Kano said...

@Samah

Welcome to my blog. I have just checked your websites. The food looks lovely.

I am looking forward to see your moghrabieh recipe.

mona said...

I love making Maftoul!

Here in the U.S., Maftoul (Maghraboui) is sold as "Israeli Couscous" ):

Kano said...

@mona

Welcome to my blog.

Here in the UK Israeli couscous is something in between normal couscous and moghrabieh. The grains are medium size.

Anonymous said...

hi iam a huge fan and probably attempted to make at leasthalf of your recipes

Kano said...

@anonymous

Thank you very much for the kind words and welcome to my blog.

Anonymous said...

This foodstuff exists in North Africa (Morocco and Algeria, not sure about Tunisia and Mauritania). We don't call it Moghrabiyya though each region of each of Morocco and Algeria call it something different. We (berbers) call it Berkoukes, we have a white and a black variety and it is usually a vegetarian winter dish made with vegetables, chick peas, fresh herbs and lots of olive oil. some Berber villages have a non vegi variety where they also add dried meat

Kano said...

@anonymous

Thank you for sharing this with us. I never new moghrabiyeh actually existed in Maghreb!

I learnt a new thing today. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

glad :-) i tried looking for a recipe online for you but non are in English sorry

Anonymous said...

everything levantine is israeli in the u.s.chhhhh

Kano said...

@anonymous

I will have to say that the so called Israeli CousCous is (in a way) a different product. It is half way between Moghrabiyeh and couscous.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I just bought a package of Mograbieh in a lebanese foodstore but wonder, if the grains are made of "blé dur" (triticum durum/ hard wheat) like italian pasta or if it is made of "blé tendre" (soft wheat) like moroccan couscous and bread.Does anybody know?

Kano said...

@anonymous

I have no idea!

Softtouch2222 said...

What is considered a proper Syrian Baharat mix?

Kano said...

@softtouch2222

Welcome to my blog.

Baharat recipe varies from region to region and even from house to house. The essential ingredients are black pepper, allspice (you can use either or both), coriander, cardamom, clove and cinnamon. The last four ingredients in smaller quantities. As a guide use 3:3:2:1:1:1 parts respectively. Other addition can include nutmeg, paprika, Aleppo pepper or cumin.

Having said that, not all Syrian households use Baharat. My mum never cooked with Bahart. I never use it in my cooking. I use black peppers and allspice as a base line spice for most dishes. Then I add individual spices depending on the recipe; caraway seeds and cinnamon for moghrabiyeh, ground and seeds cumin for stuffed vegetables ... you got my point.

Damascene cooking is generally very light on spice compared to Aleppo for example. A lot of dishes need only salt and pepper. We use fresh flavouring ingredient in Damascene cooking like green coriander and garlic mix, while in Aleppo they use coriander seeds and other dry spices.

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