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
Caraway seeds 2tsp crushed in a pestle and mortar to release the flavour.
Salt to taste
Stock cube (optional)
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.