#VeganRamadan: Musakhan recipe, but make it vegan
Its unique flavours and oily texture make it unforgettable. For those who grew up eating Palestinian food, they will always know musakhan as the luxurious dish it is and associate it with hardly being able to move afterwards because of how filling and addictive it is.
With communal eating being one of the attributes of Palestinian culture, musakhan is often served in a large tray of bread marinated in the musakhan sauce and the chicken sitting on top as a proud centrepiece. More recently, however, people are starting to serve musakhan in equally delicious and less messy rolls.
Read more: Arab veganism: Back to their roots or copying the West?
For Palestinians who have gone vegetarian or vegan, not eating musakhan is a sacrifice. However, what most have forgotten is that it’s not the chicken that makes musakhan the dish it is - it’s the texture and unique flavour.
There are many substitutes that can be used for musakhan. For this recipe, I will be using mushrooms, one of the most misunderstood ingredients in the world. I like to refer to mushrooms as the chicken of the vegan kingdom. When they’re cooked carelessly with little effort to season, or understanding on how to cook them per dish, they are horrible.
You can also use cauliflower, aubergine, jackfruit (amazing for musakhan rolls), artichoke hearts, or any other vegetable that picks up seasonings, goes well with onions and is dense enough to fill you up. Next time I make it, I’m going to prepare a mixture of mushrooms and artichoke hearts.
As for the bread, it can be very difficult to find taboon. Some use tortilla, others use naan – the closest common alternative to taboon bread. Because of the coronavirus quarantine, I opted for pitta bread, simply because it was what I had at home. We need to be mindful of when we leave the house, so adjustments need to be made in the way we cook if we don’t have anything immediately available - and that’s okay.
Recipe for 3-4 people (depending on portion size).
5 portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 large onions, sliced into a mixture of strips and cubes
2 tablespoons of sumac
1/2 cup of olive oil
3 pieces of naan bread, or available alternative
1 tablespoon roasted pine nuts
Parsley to garnish
1. With a small amount of olive oil, gently cook the portobello mushrooms on medium heat until water starts coming out of the mushrooms. The reason we’re doing this first is to dehydrate the mushrooms so they’re less soggy and have a more robust, “meaty” texture. This usually takes around 8 minutes but judge by eye, occasionally very gently pushing down on the mushrooms to encourage the retained water to release.
2. Drain the mushrooms and set aside on a plate. Whilst it’s still hot, add salt and a few sprinkles of sumac. Mix together so the sumac is spread evenly and leave to rest.
3. In a clean pot, warm the rest of the olive oil add the onions and stir on low heat until the onions are soft and transparent with a caramelised edge. Because we cut up the onions in different shapes for texture purposes, it’s important to do this process slowly on a low heat to monitor everything. This should take around 12 minutes.
4. Once done, add the mushrooms and gradually add the sumac until it’s red and acidic enough. You don’t need to use the whole thing if you prefer the sumac taste to be mild, but often I prefer to add more than is needed. Keep cooking on low heat for another 3 minutes until everything is fully incorporated together.
5. Gently toast your bread so it’s still soft but has a texture and immerse it into the musakhan mixture so the bread absorbs some of the sauce. Put the bread on a plate and spoon the onions and mushrooms on top of the bread. Add some pine nuts and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley.
You then eat it using the traditional taghmees style of eating, which entails using bread as cutlery. Enjoy!