This tasty stew is based on traditional Lebanese maghmour. The word translates literally as "moussaka", but Lebanese maghmour is quite far removed from the Grecian moussaka a lot of people are familiar with. In Lebanese maghmour, there's no béchamel or meat or even layering; history actually suggests that the Arabic version actually came first and these embellishments were added later.
Regardless, this stew has a warming, smokey, slightly spicy flavour, and is a great pick-me-up dish for the midst of winter. Paired with a fresh salad and/or a simple rice dish, it makes a hearty, filling, comforting meal. It really is hard to beat, and you can see why it's been made for centuries.
This stew also ages incredibly well; the flavours definitely meld and intensify over time, so if possible, make this stew in advance of when you want to eat it. Cool and refrigerate for a day before reheating and you'll be rewarded with even more deliciousness. Don't worry if you can't spend a day waiting though- it's still great on Day One!
Lebanese Chickpea & Aubergine Stew
Preparation time: 2 hours
Serves: 8 people
3 tbsp good-quality olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 large red onions, finely diced
2 aubergines (c. 450g in total)
600g cooked chickpeas
800g tinned, chopped tomatoes
700ml good-quality vegetable stock
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground fenugreek
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp sumac (or to taste)
30g fresh mint (stems removed)
30g fresh parsley, finely chopped (stems removed)
30g fresh rosemary, finely chopped (stems removed)
150g pine nuts, finely chopped
Ground sea salt, to taste
1./ Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius with a large baking sheet inside.
2./ Prep the aubergines; remove their tops and roughly dice. Place a dry grill pan over a high heat and quickly scorch the diced aubergine; you will likely need to do a few batches to avoid crowding the pan. Once all of the aubergine is lightly grilled, set it aside for later.
3./ Spread the pine nuts in an even layer over the heated baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 minutes or so, till the pine nuts are lightly toasted (read: golden-brown).
4./ Heat the olive oil in a large cooking pot placed over a medium-high heat. After a minute or two, add in the onion and garlic and fry for about 5-6 minutes. Next add in the ground spices, the sumac, and the pomegranate molasses, and mix into the onion mixture. Sweat down for another 3 minutes or so.
5./ Add in the tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, stock, lemon juice, grilled aubergine, and a good amount of salt. Allow the stew to boil for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally as you do. Then reduce the heat to low and stir in all the rosemary, and all but a handful of the mint, parsley, and toasted pine nuts. Leave to simmer for at least an hour, until the vegetables have softened and the flavours melded. You want a nice, thick stew, but with some liquid still remaining. Season to taste.
6./ Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil, and the remaining pine nuts and chopped herbs sprinkled over the top. Rice dishes and salads are my favourite accompaniments, although a hunk of good bread does a good job too!
Until next time...