Stew of Moghrabieh

Syria is a country that is bordered by the Mediterranean and the Middle East. So the food of Syria is a wonderful fusion of favourite cuisines. Syrian recipes are often flavoured with spices that are frequently used in Middle Eastern dishes like turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander.

Moghrabieh is a staple food in Syria and throughout the North African cuisines of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya.

A traditional Syrian stew of Moghrabieh pearls also known as “Couscous,” It is made of small (about 3 millimetres) steamed balls of crushed durum wheat semolina, that is traditionally served with a stew spooned on top.


The Moghrabieh pearls are dry, similar to pasta, and are boiled for 15-20 minutes until they are tender. This dish is so hearty and warm from the spice mixture of cinnamon, caraway, 7 spices and cumin. It is very similar to a stew as it is eaten with the flavorful broth. Most often, it is made with chicken, but it can be made with beef stew cubes or lamb with bones.

In Syria, the traditional method of preparing Moghrabieh is done as follows: a group of women come together to make large batches over several days, which were then dried in the sun and used for several months. Handmade couscous may need to be re-hydrated as it is prepared; this is achieved by a process of moistening and steaming over stew until the couscous reaches the desired light and fluffy consistency.

Moghrabieh is traditionally made from the hard part of the durum, the part of the grain that resisted the grinding of the millstone. The semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets, sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then sieved. Any pellets that are too small to be finished granules of moghrabieh fall through the sieve and are again rolled and sprinkled with dry semolina and rolled into pellets. This labor-intensive process continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny granules of Moghrabieh.


2 cups (340 g) pearl moghrabieh

4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock

½  cup dried chickpeas, or 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

500 gleg lamb chops (about 4 chops), trimmed and cut in half

1 tsp salt to taste

2 cinnamon stick

40 g butter

10 small pickling onions, peeled

 ½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp seven spices

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground caraway

1 tsp ground cinnamon


1- Combine moghrabieh and chicken stock, cover and soak overnight in the refrigerator. If using dried chickpeas, soak in water overnight. Once chickpeas are soaked, drain, then simmer gently in a large saucepan of water until tender, 45 minutes – 1½ hours depending on chickpeas.

2- Boil the lamb in 5 cups (1.25 litres) water, salt and cinnamon in a medium saucepan, over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour, removing any scum from the surface, or until tender.

3- After 40 minutes of simmering, heat half the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until it starts to turn golden brown, add the pickling onions and fry for a few minutes, or until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and add to the lamb saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until tender, then remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Reserve the cooking liquid.

4- Meanwhile, drain the moghrabieh and heat the remaining butter in a large saucepan. Add the moghrabieh and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chickpeas and pickling onions and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock from the lamb, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan. Add the black pepper, seven spices, cumin and caraway, stir well to combine and remove from the heat.

5-Transfer the moghrabieh to a large serving dish, arrange the lamb and onions on top and garnish with the ground cinnamon.

6 - You can also fry 250 g chicken breast fillet strips (about 6 cm x 3 cm) in 2 tablespoons butter for about 3 minutes on each side and arrange them on top of the moghrabieh with the lamb and onions. Seven spices