Tag Archives: North African

Ramadan Day 4


Felt rather tired today but personally I find keeping busy in the kitchen helps the time to pass quicker so I am happy to stay there making a few things.

Today there was Algerian shorba again, vegetarian as it was last time but this time with tiny Orzo pasta (or Tli-tli as the Algerians call it) instead of burghul or vermicelli. There were some leftovers as well as mini pizzas that came out soft as little pillows, vegetable samosas as I made a double batch yesterday and cheese and potato Borek. A tip for the potato borek that I picked up from my dear sister-in-law is to use instant potato! Yes… the powdered stuff in boxes – remember the adverts for Smash in the 1970’s or early 1980’s??! “For mash get Smash!” So, I used about 120g of Tesco instant potato and about 550ml of boiling water, stirred well with a wooden spoon and then added a knob of butter and about 150g grated cheddar. I used this to fill the spring roll pastry and folded into logs. I slightly over-cooked them as you can see in the photo. 🙄


Dessert was Eve’s pudding but made with strawberries and raspberries instead of apples – this was served with rich chocolate ganache. It didn’t turn out quite as planned because I took a shortcut and used a supermarket cake packet mixture which was a bit too runny for this recipe. It was very tasty though with the tart, tanginess of the raspberries and the soft, sweetness of the cake. I didn’t think it really needed the rich chocolate sauce but my 15 yr old and 13 yr old daughters disagreed. Nice to have pleased someone!


Tomatish bil Bassal


So what to do when hubby brings home with an enormous amount of tomatoes, “because they were a good price” and no amount of salads will use up this glut of tomatoes?! 🙄  Go Algerian and make Tomatish Bil Bassal or in English, Tomatoes with onions.

Tasty dish perfect for summer when tomatoes are cheap and all you need is some French baguette or other crusty bread on the side to mop it up with. Simply delicious!

  • 4 large onions, halved and sliced
  • a few small chunks of meat, preferably on the bone to impart more flavour – however much you want to eat, I used 4 small chunks which was probably barely 100g
  • 1kg chopped tomatoes
  • 1 green chili, deseeded (I recommend the use of rubber or latex gloves for this!)
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Slice the onions and add them into a pressure cooker with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of olive oil, add the meat and stir fry for a few minutes until the meat is sealed.

Roughly chop 1kg fresh tomatoes and deseed  1 fresh green chilli. I’d recommend using latex or rubber gloves when handling the cut chilli.

Throw the tomatoes and chilli into the pot with the onions and meat. Add a teaspoon of salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, put the lid on the pot and leave to gently simmer for a while.

Liquid will start to come out of the tomatoes but after about 10 minutes add about a cupful or so of extra water and then screw on the pressure lid and leave on a low to medium heat for about an hour. Check the water level after about half an hour though.

The stew is ready when the meat is cooked through and tender and the onions are deliciously soft. Check for salt, add more if necessary.

Serve with fresh, crusty bread.

Bon Appetit!

Spicy Libyan Couscous


Spicy Libyan Style Cous cous


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:


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


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):


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.

Rustic Fish Soup


Fish soup

I wanted to create something a little more rustic than the typical bouillabaisse so I looked to North African recipes for some inspiration for this soup or shorba as it is known in North Africa. This quick and simple soup is a modification of various fish soups I found in my recipe books.

Click here for printable recipe


1 grated onion

 2 cloves garlic finely grated

1  white fish steak (i.e. cod/haddock… I used a local Saudi fish called Sha’our)

150g raw, peeled shrimps

1 squid sliced into rings

1 tin  tomatoes, blended

chunk red or yellow pepper, diced

large pinch saffron

1/4 teaspoon cummin

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

chilli to taste

1 litre boiling water

Finely chopped parsley to garnish


  • Saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the pot, bring to boil and then cover and simmer until the fish is cooked.

soup ingreds

  • Remove fish and break it up into smaller pieces and return to pan. Add more water if necessary.
  • Add some finely chopped parsley if desired and serve with crusty bread.

Cous cous ~ Algerian Style



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.


  • 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.


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


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


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


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


Last time I was in Algeria, I sat with my sister-in-law for practical lessons in how to make M’hadjeb. It’s something I had wanted to learn to make for a long time. M’hadjeb is similar in principle to the Pakistani/Indian Paratha in that it is a flat chapatti type of bread with a filling; in the case of M’hadjeb though, the dough is made from semolina rather than regular flour.

It is a very economical recipe in summer since semolina is a staple of North Africa and onions, tomatoes and peppers are cheap and plentiful when in season.

The filling is made from equal quantities of chopped onions and peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes. Sauté the onions until soft, add salt and the tomatoes, some chopped green pepper if desired and you can also add chili powder or caraway seed if you like. Cook until reduced and rich in flavour.

For the dough, pour semolina of medium coarseness into a large bowl – for my trial run I just used about 1 kilo of semolina and a teaspoon of salt. Pour on some tepid water and mix briskly with the hands and add enough water to obtain a dough that comes together and is kneadable.

Turn the dough out onto the table and start kneading and keep sprinkling with drops of water and pummeling, stretching and kneading. You probably need to sprinkle with water every minute. Knead really well for at least half an hour. We kneaded for about 20 minutes, covered and refrigerated and then continued in the morning for another 15 minutes.

You should finally have a soft, elastic dough that is quite sticky. You’ll find that it is easy to knead but if you leave it for a moment, it sticks to the work surface. To test, break off a small piece and stretch into a rectangle, it should stretch easily and become quite sheer.

Form the dough into even sized balls, about the size of a tennis ball.

Oil the table and your hands and then take one piece of dough and with the hands smooth out and flatten the dough into a large square/rectangle. Holes don’t matter too much but try to make it as even as possible and avoid very thick areas. Stretch any thick edges.
Bring the top edge down and fold to the middle of the square and then add a tablespoon of the filling and spread out to cover what will be the middle section.
Next, fold up the bottom edge, then the left side over as far as the final edge of the filling and then the right side. Pat down gently and make sure none of the filling is oozing out. Sprinkle with oil.
Carefully lift up the M’hadjeb and place on the hot plate which should be set over a medium to high heat.

Turn over with a palette knife and cook evenly on both sides.

They can also be made with no filling, and then sprinkled with sugar and eaten with coffee; these are Ma’aarek.

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


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.