Mogrhabieh, or Lebanese couscous, is a dish much revered in Lebanon and the surrounding region. Meaning “dish of the Maghreb,” moghrabieh refers to both the finished dish and the grain with which it is made. Lebanese couscous is larger than traditional couscous, and made of semolina flour rolled into pearl-sized balls. It is commonly made with a rich chicken and onion stock, and served with pieces of cooked chicken, onions and chickpeas.
Making the Chicken Stock
Prepare the chicken and onion stock, up to a day in advance, if desired. Season the whole chicken with salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon or allspice, and brown in oil in a heavy stock pot over medium-high heat with the onions until evenly golden, for approximately 10 minutes.
Add enough water to completely cover the chicken, plus several bay leaves, and simmer until the chicken is completely cooked, or about an hour. Remove the chicken and onions, and set aside. Discard the bay leaves.
Remove bones and skin from chicken, and cut the meat into large chunks.
Cooking the Moghrabieh
Boil the dry moghrabieh in lightly salted water for 10 minutes, then drain.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy sauté pan until shimmering, and then add the drained moghrabieh and sauté for several minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking, until golden. Add the reserved chicken stock, more cumin and cinnamon or allspice, and simmer over medium heat until the couscous is cooked thoroughly, approximately 15 minutes.
Add the chicken meat, onions and one can of cooked chickpeas, rinsed well, and simmer until heated through, about five minutes. Season to taste, and serve immediately.
Ready-mixed moghrabieh spice mix can be found in most Middle Eastern markets, to be used in place of the cumin, allspice, cinnamon and bay leaves. Clarified butter can be used instead of the olive oil to saute the moghrabieh, if desired. The finished dish can be kept, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
Use caution when heating oil, and never leave the stove unattended. Supervise children in the kitchen at all times. Ensure the chicken is cooked thoroughly before serving.