"Is This the First Moussaka?"

Joined Jul 24, 2001
I recently received the book of Clifford Wright about Mediterannean History of Food :)
It has a reference to Moussaka :)

I copy :

"Moussaka (the stress is on the last syllable) is a baked lamb and eggplant casserole covered with a thick layer of bechamel sauce that becomes golden and crusty. It can be made with other ingredients besides lamb and eggplant, using beef, or vegetables such as zucchini or potatoes. Moussaka is the best known of all Greek foods. Greeks believe that moussaka was introduced when the Arabs brought the eggplant, although Arabs, especially in Lebanon, think of it dish as a Greek dish. Moussaka is also found in Turkey.

No one knows what the origin of moussaka is but the following recipe from the thirteenth- century Arabic cookbook known as the Baghdad cookery book was proposed by one food historian as the ancestor of moussaka.

Maghmuma or Muqatta'a

Cut fat meat small. Slice the tail thin and chop up small. Take onions and eggplant, peel, half-boil, and also cut up small: these may, however, be peeled and cut up into the meat- pot, and not be boiled separately. Make a layer of the tail at the bottom of the pan, then put on top of it a layer of meat: drop in fine-ground seasonings, dry coriander, cummin, caraway, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. On top of the meat put a layer of eggplant and onion: repeat, until only about four or five fingers' space remain in the pot. Sprinkle over each layer the ground seasonings as required. Mix best vinegar with a little water and a trifle of saffron, and add to the pan so as to lie to a depth of two or three fingers on top of the meat and other ingredients. Leave to settle over the fire: then remove.

It seems likely that the Greek moussaka has Arab origins and is related to the Levantine musakhkhan, with the word moussaka perhaps derived from this Arab word"
Joined Jul 24, 2001
I continue copying :)

Bread-Wrapped Baked Chicken and Onions with Sumac

In Palestine, a favorite dish made by the peasants is musakhkhan, a dish that one typically eats with one's hands and which literally means "something that is heated."

I have speculated elsewhere that the Greek moussaka may be derived from this Arabic word musakhkan. In any case, the dish is seasoned with sumac, a spice made from the ground dried berries of a bush that grows wild throughout the Middle East and is sold in Middle Eastern markets in this country. Sumac has a sour and vaguely lemony taste. Musakhkhan is made by cooking chicken until tender and succulent with an abundant amount of onions. Some Palestinian cooks use more spices, such as allspice or saffron, and garnish the top with fried pine nuts. Once the chicken is cooked, it is wrapped in thin leaves of shrak or marquq bread, sold in many American markets today by its Armenian name, lavash bread. Shrak bread is a thin whole-wheat bread baked on a domed griddle over an open fire, while marquq is a very thin yeasted flat bread. This bread can also be called saj, a bread cooked on a convex metal plate called a surj or saj, hence the name. All of these breads are stretched until very thin before being cooked.

This simple preparation is one of my favorites and the recipe comes from my former mother-in-law Leila al-Qattan, whose husband Abdul-Muhsin al-Qattan, normally a penetrating dinner conversationalist, loved musakhkhan so much that he never spoke at the table until he was finished.


1 whole free-range chicken (about 3 1/ 2 pounds)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 cup sumac

4 sheets marquq bread (see the Note below) or 2 large khubz 'arabi (Arabic flatbread or pita bread), split open and separated

1. Cut the chicken into up into two breasts, two thighs, two legs, and two wings. Salt and pepper the chicken.

2. In a large, deep casserole, heat 1/ 4 cup of the olive oil, then lightly brown the chicken on all sides over a medium heat, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the remaining 1/ 4 cup olive oil to the casserole and cook the onions until translucent, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sumac and cook for 2 minutes to mix.

3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cover a 9 x 12-inch baking dish with two overlapping halves of the Arabic bread or 2 sheets of marquq bread. Spoon half the onions over each, then arrange the chicken on top of the onions and cover with the remaining onions and the juices from the casserole. Cover with the two remaining half leaves of bread or sheets of marquq bread, tucking in the sides crusty side up and spray with water. Bake until the chicken is very tender and almost falling off the bone, about 1 1/ 2 hours. Before the top cover of bread begins to burn, spray with water again or cover with aluminum foil.

Note: The size of marquq bread made and sold in the U.S. or Canada varies, so use common sense.

Makes 6 servings "
Joined Jul 31, 2000

Did you read the recipe on page 555 for Musakhkhan?

Just looking at the recipe, I wonder where the similarity is between the two. Is it the fact that they are both a cassarole?

BTW, good book
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