Friday, October 22, 2010

Algerian Cuisine

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Algeria, located in Northern Africa, is strongly influenced by Islamic culture. 99% of Algerians are Muslim, with Jews and Christians making up only 1% of the population. Their meals are a combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Interesting facts about Algerian Cuisine
* Meals are a sociable and eaten leisurely
* Guests are warmly welcomed and greeted with Etzai (mint tea) or coffee, and often invited to stay for a meal.
* It is customary for the women in the family to cook the meals. This is considered a woman's duty. (Don't even start guys!)
* Recipes and cooking customs are passed down by word of mouth as women get together to prepare meals.
* Food is consumed using the thumb, forefinger and middle finger of the right hand. Using all of your fingers is considered a sign of overeating.
* Dates, walnuts, figs, mint and yogurt appear in many Algerian recipes.
* Ginger, saffron, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, and mint are essential to any Algerian pantry.

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Breakfast is usually a light meal, which may include sweet pastries served with tea or Turkish coffee. Coffee is often flavored with cardamom. Lunch is often purchased from street vendors, or stalls, and is commonly some for of Shawarma (Kebab). Dinner is often very large and eaten late at night. This is especially true during the month of Ramadan.

The Khabz (pita) is a traditional Arab flatbread. It is the base of Algerian cuisine and is eaten at every meal. Lamb is common, along with fish and occasionally chicken or beef. Couscous is also served routinely.

Fresh fruit is often in a bowl on the table and consumed after a meal. Fruit and fruit juices are plentiful. Young Algerian children enjoy drinking apricot nectar. Etzai is one of the most popular drinks, along with Turkish coffee, fruit juice and soft drinks.

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I could go on and on! There is so much to talk about. But let's take a peak into our pantry...
For this country, I chose a recipe based on the spices more than anything. I did choose a chicken dish, even though lamb is more common. This is simply because I have to drive 45 minutes to find lamb around here :) And it's pretty darn expensive. I did splurge and buy Saffron so my meal could be truly authentic (at least that was the excuse I made to myself ~ and my husband~ as I purchased that $17 bottle containing 0.06 oz. of Saffron!)

Anyway, I was going to go REALLY authentic and serve yogurt-mint soup as an appetizer and coucous with raisins and flatbread along with my dish. The children were particularly unruly this afternoon and I didn't have the time to make the soup. In all the commotion, I forgot to make the coucous. I simply would NOT make a good Algerian wife! And I'm sorry, but I will NOT be serving my husband dinner at midnight. If he's hungry, he will be walking his hiney to the refrigerator himself :)

Photo Source: MY KITCHEN :)

The meal I chose was Chicken with Chickpeas and Lemon. Here's the recipe!

Chicken with Chickpeas and Lemon



1) Combine garlic, salt, pepper, ginger and saffron. Add 1/2 butter and stir well. Rub it all over Chicken. Allow to marinate overnight.

2) Put Chicken in large pan. Add 1/2 Parsley and cilantro, green onions, cinnamon stick and just enough water to cover; bring to boil, simmer 1 hour.

3) Melt remaining butter and saute red Onion until well browned.

4) Remove Chicken from pan; add Onion, chick Peas and remaining herbs to the remaining liquid, simmer until liquid is reduced to a sauce.

5) Add lemon juice, remove from heat; discard the cinnamon

, pour sauce over Chicken and sprinkle with remaining Parsley and cilantro and serve.

SO... how did it turn out? It was actually delicious! VERY different flavorings than what I'm used to, but it was extremely tasty. While I imagine some of the dishes they serve are subtle, this one was vibrant and flavorful. The combination of herbs with the lemon and chickpeas really flavored that chicken. And Derek loved it! I did manage to throw a pita

on his plate with the chicken (and even some asparagus), and I saw him finishing up the sauce and chickpeas with his bread. So a definite thumbs up on this recipe!!!

I can't wait to jump into our next country's cuisine. Next stop...Andorra! I know... I know... I hadn't heard of it either! And it's not a fictional Ewok village. It really does exist and I promise we'll tell you all about it.

Recipe- Information-

1 comment:

  1. Good job, Chris! My Algerian post will be up soon - and I'm with you....Andorra?? Isn't that Samatha Steven's mother? haha

    Love you - AND your wonderful dishes :)