Eggplants and Chickpeas in tomato sauce
Although the Arabic name of this dish sounds the same as that of another Greek eggplant dish, the two are quite different. The Lebanese version is vegetarian. You can use dried or tinned cooked chick peas. The latter being the easiest option as it eliminates the soaking and skinning steps required for the dried peas.
I prefer to use dried chickpeas as I do not like the slightly metallic taste of the tinned ones. Mussaqa’a is served at room temperature as its Arabic name indicates, mussaqa’a meaning "cooled down".
- 75 gr whole chick peas, soaked overnight or 150 gr tinned chick peas, drained and rinsed (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (optional)
- 12 small eggplants or 2 large ones (about 600 gr)
- vegetable oil for frying
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 800 gr ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or equivalent Italian canned
- salt to taste
The night before
Put the chickpeas to soak in three times their volume of water as they will double in size. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, this should soften them and help reduce their cooking time.
Drain and spread the soaked chickpeas on a kitchen towel, cover with another towel and press over them lightly with a rolling pin, this should split them as well as loosen their skin. Put them back in a bowl, run cold water over them and get rid of the skins by skimming them or pouring them out with the water.
Rinse the chickpeas under cold water; put them in a saucepan, cover with water and place over a high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, and boil gently for one hour or until tender. During that time prepare the eggplants. If the eggplants have long stalks, shorten them to approximately 1.5 cm and trim away the husk that caps their skin. Peel off a thin strip of skin, about 1 cm wide, the full length of the eggplant, leave an equal strip of skin unpeeled, peel another and continue until you have a striped eggplant.
Fill a wide frying pan with enough vegetable oil to deep fry the eggplants and place it over a medium heat. When the oil is hot (to test heat, put in the bottom end of an eggplant, and if the oil bubbles around it, it is ready) fry the eggplants until golden on all sides. Remove the eggplants with a slotted spoon and place on several layers of kitchen paper to soak up the surplus oil. A lighter alternative, though not as delicious, is to brush the eggplants with vegetable oil and place them in a medium hot oven to cook for about 30 minutes or until soft.
Put 3 tablespoons olive oil, the sliced onion and garlic into a saucepan that is sufficiently wide for the eggplants to fit in one layer. Place over a medium heat and fry until golden. Add the drained cooked chickpeas and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, season with salt to taste, cover the pan and boil gently for 15 minutes. Then carefully arrange the eggplants in one layer in the tomato sauce, add more salt if necessary, put the lid back on and boil gently for another 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the tomato sauce thickened.
If the sauce is still too runny, uncover the pan and boil for a few more minutes until any excess liquid has evaporated. Let the eggplants cool down before transferring them carefully onto a serving platter. Pour the sauce in between the eggplants to show the striped effect and serve at room temperature.