Category Archives: Stews

Spicy Libyan Couscous

Basmala

Spicy Libyan Style Cous cous

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Cous cous in the Algiers region is generally served with a non-spicy, white (containing no tomato) stew but as you travel east towards Tunisia and Libya you will find that the stew is spicier and there  is the addition of tomato into the sauce. This stew and method of serving the couscous (drenched in the sauce) is typical of Libya.

In a pressure cooker, fry 4 sliced onions until soft:

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Add 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/8 teaspoon chili powder, salt and pepper: 

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Stir well and then add 1 chicken cut into portions or 1/2 – 1 kg of lamb or beef, fry to seal the meat:

Add  1/2 can chickpeas6 small/medium carrots peeled and halved lengthwise,  3 tablespoons tomato puree (concentrated paste) and a kettleful of water (approx 1.5 litres):

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Bring to the boil and then cover  and screw on lid and simmer until the meat is half cooked. Now add 4 small courgettes (zucchini) and 2 medium potatoes cut into quarters and more water if the level has reduced.  Cover again and simmer until the meat and vegetables are all cooked.

Cook your couscous according to the package instructions or see here. N.B. The couscous will need to be fairly dry as you will pour the liquid from the stew over the couscous and mix it in.

Remove the meat, vegetables and as much of the onion and chickpeas as you can. Mix as much of the red sauce into the couscous as it will absorb. Transfer the couscous to a large serving dish.

Arrange the meat and vegetables over the couscous, sprinkle the chickpeas and onions over the top to garnish.

Serve any additional sauce in a jug seperately.

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Cous cous ~ Algerian Style

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This is the typical cous cous with stew from my husband’s region of Algeria which is the capital and surrounding area. The sauce is ‘white’ (contains no tomato or harissa). I use courgettes, turnip and carrots although it is common to find this stew with meat/chicken and turnip (mouli/luft) only. I occasionally add one medium potato cut into 4-6 pieces also. The stew is easy to cook in a regular saucepan and the cous cous can be cooked in the traditional couscousiere or in the microwave.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 chicken cut into pieces
  • 5 small courgettes (zucchini) topped and tailed
  • 5 medium carrots halved vertically
  • 2 small turnips, in 4 chunks
  • 1/2 tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1 medium potato if desired
  • salt, pepper and a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1.5 litres water

Saute the onions until soft then add the chicken pieces and spices and fry until sealed. Add the carrots, turnips, chickpeas and water and cook with pressure until almost done. Add the potato and courgette and cook further until all ingredients are cooked through.

To cook the cous cous, best results will be obtained by steaming not soaking.

Wash your cous cous, drain and leave to soak up whatever water remains. Rub grains together to separate them and then place in the top part of a steamer or couscousiere and cook until the steam breaks through the grains. Empty out into a large tray, break up the grains with a spoon and sprinkle on half a small glass of salted water and then return to the steamer. Steam a second time until the steam breaks through, turn out into a tray and with a spoon or fork rub through some butter, margarine or vegetable ghee (smen).

An alternative method of cooking the cous cous that also uses steam is to cook it in the microwave.  Wash the cous cous and leave to absorb excess fluid. Place in a large microwavable plastic bowl and cover with cling film. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir through a half a glass of salted water making sure to break up the cous cous grains. Cover with cling film and return to microwave for a further two minutes and then rub through some butter, margarine or vegetable ghee as above.

I find this method less messy as you use only one large bowl to cook the cous cous in and the cling film keeps the steam build up aroud the cous cous so the cooking principle remains the same. You end up with nice fluffy grains as with steaming.

Arrange the chicken and vegetables over the cous cous and serve.

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Above: Cous cous after having been rinsed – leave it to absorb residual water

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Above: Cous cous 10 mins later. Grains have been rubbed to separate them.

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Above: Cous cous after 2 steamings in the microwave. Knob of margarine/butter melting into the hot grains.

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Above: Cous cous with chicken and vegetables arranged over the top; sauce from the pot served in a separate jug.

Algerian Chicken Chtit’ha

Chicken Chtit’ha is a very simple and tasty Algerian dish which is essentially chicken cooked in a tomato and garlic sauce. Perfect served with crusty French bread.

You need:

1 small onion

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon chicken spices/baharat/ra’s al-hanout

1/8 teaspoon paprika

2 whole Allspice (the round ones that look like large peppercorns)

2 teaspoons tomato paste concentrate

1/2 can chickpeas

pieces of skinless chicken – this amount of sauce should be good for 2 or 3 whole legs

water

To make:

  • Use a cheesegrater (with the largest holes) and shred the onion into a pan containing 1 tablespoon oil then using a finer grater, grate in the garlic.
  • Saute on a medium heat taking care not to over colour the onions.
  • When soft, add the chicken pieces and fry to seal.
  • Add the spices and tomato paste, stir well and add 1/4 cup of water and the chickpeas.
  • After a short while add another cup of water and bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low-medium.
  • Stir regularly and add small amounts of water if and when necessary.
  • If you like it hot, add 1 teaspoon of harissa with the tomato paste.

The end result should be tender pieces of chicken in a thickish sauce that you can eat with bread; you don’t want it to dry out but also you don’t want it tobe too runny and soupy.

Adass – Algerian Lentils

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‘Adass is a delicious, warming and very hearty Algerian lentil stew perfect for the winter months. It is tasty and satisfying yet has surprisingly few ingredients and is simple to prepare. Typically eaten with French baguette.

Ingredients:

  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 4 medium carrots, halved and chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 1 turnip chopped into smallish chunks
  • 1 potato cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 1/2 cups green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon tomato concentrate past
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 litres water
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Place all ingredients into a pressure cooker, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to medium, screw on the lid and simmer for 1 – 1  1/2 hours but check water level regularly. Take care when stirring not to break up the vegetables.

The lentils are ready when they are soft but not disintegrating. There should be some liquid remaining, giving the consistency of a very thick soup. Eat with bread and a little harissa if liked.

If you have leftovers, you’ll find that some of the liquid will be absorbed overnight so be careful not to make the stew too dry.