Teta’s Smoky Musaqa’a
The word moussaka, applied to the famous greek dish, doesn’t actually have any meaning in the greek language. instead, it’s thought the dish came to greece by way of the Phoenicians and then took on French influences (hence the béchamel sauce). meaning “cold” or “chilled” in arabic, musaqa’a is a humble vegetarian stew that is best served at room temperature.
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus soaking the chickpeas (optional)
Cooking time: 1 hour 5 minutes, plus cooking the chickpeas until they are just tender (optional)
1kg/2lb 4oz aubergines
125ml/4fl oz/1⁄2 cup olive oil
1kg/2lb 4oz beefsteak tomatoes
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced into rings
3 garlic cloves, crushed with the blade of a knife
125g/41⁄2oz/heaped 1⁄2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender (see page 215), or 250g/9oz/heaped 1 cup tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp tomato purée (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
mint leaves (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 200 ̊C/400 ̊C/Gas 6. Partially skin the aubergines, leaving strips of skin about 2.5cm/1in wide, then cut them lengthways into 2cm/3⁄4in slices. Brush the slices on both sides with 6 tablespoons of the olive oil (or more or less, as preferred) and place in a 20 x 15cm/ 8 x 6in baking dish, overlapping as necessary. Sprinkle with a little salt and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until soft. Alternatively, preheat the grill to medium-high and grill the prepared slices for about 5 minutes on each side or until softened and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
2 Core the tomatoes and score the bottoms with a sharp knife. Put them in a heatproof bowl. Pour over enough boiling water to cover and leave for 1 minute or until the skins begin to peel. Drain the tomatoes and plunge into cold water to stop them cooking, then peel off the skins and discard. Cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out and discard the seeds, then slice the tomatoes into 5mm/1⁄4in thick slices.
3 Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, then cover and sweat for 4–5 minutes, stirring often, until translucent. Add the tomato slices and chickpeas in layers, seasoning each layer with a pinch of seven-spice, salt and pepper. Cover with about 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup water. If the tomatoes are not a rich red colour, then add the tomato purée for more depth of flavour and colour. Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
4 Add the cooked aubergine slices on top of the stew in layers, overlapping if necessary. Gently press them down just enough so that they are lightly covered by the tomato broth. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover and leave to cool down to room temperature. Serve with the yoghurt and with mint for sprinkling, Arabic Bread and Rice, if you like.