Know, dear reader, that there exists in the world an amazing vegan eggplant and chickpea stew concoction called maghmour, the moussaka of Lebanon. Unless you’re from Lebanon or a neighboring middle eastern country, it’s a dish you’ve probably never heard of. That stops today. You need to know about this stuff because it’s delicious, and simple, and you’d be a happy person if you simply made and ate maghmour all the time.
Lebanese Moussaka You Say?
Google maghmour. Go ahead. I’ll wait (please come back when you’re done!).
What did you see? If you’re looking at Google in English in the United States like I am, you saw various allusions to Lebanese Moussaka. Right?
I have to confess that initially I found these moussaka comparisons very confusing. Years ago in another life I used to teach logic. My confusion about maghmour was due to what logicians call a category mistake. Stay with me a moment. I’ll explain.
I assumed that calling maghmour “Lebanese moussaka” was simply a way of describing a less familiar Mediterranean eggplant dish by comparing it to a more familiar Mediterranean eggplant dish. Brilliant! I thought. This is all very helpful save for one small problem. Maghmour really isn’t anything like moussaka. Granted, both dishes are made with eggplant, and tomato, and olive oil. But that’s where the similarities end.
Moussaka is, as I understood it, this layered casserole dish made with ground meat. It’s spiced with cinnamon and has a thick layer of béchamel sauce on top. To me it looks more like an English or Irish Shepherd’s Pie than maghmour.
Maghmour is this thick, smoky eggplant and chickpea dish. It’s more stew-like than casserole-like. And it doesn’t contain any meat or dairy whatsoever. It’s totally vegan. How the heck is that like moussaka?
Eventually I learned that my idea of moussaka was the dish you’d likely to be served in a Greek restaurant in America. In other words, the moussaka I know is Greek-American moussaka (i.e., Greek moussaka made with ground beef instead of lamb, because cowboys eat cows and lamb is hard to come by). Where I ran into trouble is that I took this shadowy notion of moussaka as the Platonic Ideal of moussaka (work with me here: Plato was Greek). It’s not.
Maghmour is Lebanon’s Moussaka
I read a rather eye opening article in The Atlantic that notes that the Greek moussaka I described above dates back to the end of the 19th century. The very word “moussaka” is not Greek in origin, but rather Arabic. And there are in fact many versions of moussaka throughout the Mediterranean region. For instance, there are versions in the Balkan region that substitute potato for eggplant. The Turkish version contains meat and eggplant like the Greek version, but it’s not layered and it also has peppers in it. And finally, there is a meatless version in Lebanon that includes chickpeas called maghmour.
Boom! Minor Copernican revolution in thinking. Maghmour isn’t like moussaka. Maghmour is moussaka. If you’re Lebanese, thanks for patiently waiting for me to catch up. Who ever said cooking isn’t educational?
Shout out to Hadia for sharing her mom’s maghmour recipe. I based mine off of hers.
- 2 Large Eggplant (about 2 pounds)
- ¾ Cup Dry Chickpeas (or 2 Cups canned)
- ½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Large Onion, diced
- 5 Cloves Garlic, minced
- Pinch of Kosher Salt
- Two Cups Tomato (Peeled fresh in summer, otherwise canned)
- 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 1 Teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Mint
- 1 - 2 Cups Water
- Rinse your chickpeas under cold water and place in a pot with about 4 cups of water. Allow to soak overnight.
- The next day, drain and rinse the chikpeas..add fresh water to the pot of chickpeas so about an inch of water is above the surface of the chickpeas. Bring to a boil and simmer until chickpeas are tender, about 30 minutes. You can skip this step and use canned chickpeas if you prefer.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C). Cut your eggplants into cubes about two inches square. Coat with half of the olive oil and roast in the oven until tender and browned (about 20-30 minutes).
- In another heavy bottomed large pot heat remaining olive oil. Add onions and a pinch of salt and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until garlic is tender and fragrant.
- Add tomato, tomato paste, paprika, eggplant, drained chickepeas, and mint. Bring to a simmer and cook until flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Add additional water as necessary to maintain a moist, stew-like consistency.