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Couscous with a Lebanese difference

Q Could you investigate and write about cooking moghrabieh? I bought some from the local Mediterranean market and the manager and a customer both told me it's fantastic.
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Moghrabieh and vegetable soup

Q Could you investigate and write about cooking moghrabieh? I bought some from the local Mediterranean market and the manager and a customer both told me it's fantastic. I'd like to cook something, perhaps in two batches, that will satisfy the meat eaters and the vegetarians in my family.

Can you solve this request?

Dwight Owens

A Moghrabieh is a type of couscous that originates in Lebanon. It is similar in appearance to Israeli couscous, but is a little larger, and is made by forming pasta-like wheat dough into pea-sized balls.

Moghrabieh is quite different from the finegrained couscous you'll see in most Canadian supermar-

GLUTEN AFTERWORD

After my story Feb. 27 on resources for celiacs, readers sent in the names of other places that offer gluten-free food products.

Victoria's historic Niagara Grocery has almost 200 gluten-free products, including breads and pastries. The Markets on Yates and Millstream have large gluten-free selections and guides to the products they sell. The Superstore in Langford has an aisle dedicated to gluten-free products.

Nanaimo's Blue Jewel Bakery and Café sells gluten-free baked goods, pizzas, sandwiches and more. The Steiner Bakery in Campbell River also has wonderful gluten-free products. kets. That product, sometimes referred to as instant couscous, is made by moistening semolina with salted water and forming it into granules, steaming them and then drying them. To cook this type of couscous, you simply steep it in boiling water or liquid for a few minutes, until the granules are plump, before separating the grains with a fork.

Moghrabieh, on the other hand, is cooked as you would pasta, in simmering salted water or a flavoured liquid, where it will take about 30 minutes to become tender. You could also cook and soften moghrabieh by covering with boiling water and soaking until tender.

As with barley, you can swirl moghrabieh into a dish and cook it, as I did in today's Mediterranean-style soup recipe flavoured with pesto. You can also cook, cool and use moghrabieh as a base for a salad; cook moghrabieh and, as you would rice, spoon something saucy over it; or cook it and then mix it into another dish, as I did in today's chicken stew recipe.

You'll find moghrabieh at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern specialty food stores. I bought some at Blair Market in Victoria at 924 Pandora Ave.

Eric Akis is the author of the recently published Everyone Can Cook Slow Cooker Meals. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

HEAVENLY SPICED CHICKEN STEW WITH MOGHRABIEH

This entrée is made by stirring cooked moghrabieh into a saucy chicken stew flavoured with orange and five spices. Moghrabieh is starchy, so when cooking it for this type of recipe, I use a generous amount of water to help counteract that.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 75 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 medium green pepper, diced

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp paprika

- pinch cayenne pepper

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth

2 tsp finely grated orange zest

1/2 cup orange juice

1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup moghrabieh

- salt and freshly ground black

pepper to taste

2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint or parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large ovenproof pot set over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper and garlic, and cook 4 minutes. Stir in the flour, tomato paste and spices and cook 1 minute more. While stirring, slowly mix in the stock or broth. Mix in the orange zest, orange juice, chicken and raisins, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook in the oven 60 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

While the chicken cooks, place moghrabieh in a tall pot and cover with 6 cups of cold water. Lightly salt the water, bring to a gentle simmer, and simmer 30 minutes, or until moghrabieh is tender. Drain well, cool moghrabieh in ice-cold water, and then drain well again.

When the chicken has cooked 60 minutes, uncover and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the drained moghrabieh, cover and cook in the oven 10 minutes, or until the moghrabieh is heated through. Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle with mint or parsley and serve.

MOGHRABIEH AND VEGETABLE SOUP

This inviting vegetarian soup contains six types of vegetables and moghrabieh, Lebanese couscous. It freezes well. I like to serve it with slices of focaccia or olive bread.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Makes: 4-6 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 small carrot, in small cubes

1 small celery rib, in small cubes

1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into small cubes

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup moghrabieh

4 cups vegetable stock or broth

1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

2-3 Tbsp pesto

- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pot set over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper and garlic and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Add the moghrabieh, stock, tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer until the moghrabieh is tender, about 30 minutes. Mix in the pesto, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

eakis@timescolonist.com

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