Saturday, 26 June 2010

Scoring in North Africa

The sound of the vuvuzela is still emanating from the World Cup in South Africa.



You won't find this horn in North Africa, but what you will find is delicious couscous and fragrant tagines as featured in North African Cookery by Arto der Haroutunian.

published by Grub Street (2009) £18.99

You need to know about  Arto der Haroutunian because his cookbooks are small masterpieces - he paints with words and recipes.   He was born in Syria, but came to England as a child with his parents.  Sadly, he passed away in 1987 at age 47.  His short life bestowed many legacies, the major of which is his series of Middle Eastern/North African cookbooks which have long been out of print until now.  Lucky for us, his cookbook legacies are now coming back into print.  That's a score!

This author thoroughly knew his history, culture and food.  His gift for communicating it with such striking passion would surely have made him a contender for  a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing nations together through understanding and a meat & olive tagine. 

North African Cookery is a comprehensive food journey through Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

 
You can tell from the recipes that they are based on what's locally available in the dessert climate of North Africa.  While there might not be a huge variety in the number of ingredients, there is a huge variety in the way the ingredients are prepared.

Couscous, for example, features heavily in this cookbook.  Couscous is to North Africa what rice is to Asia.  It's essential.  The author isn't afraid to recommend commercially prepared couscous, but he has written a couscous tutorial to tell you how the women of the Maghreb still prepare their homemade couscous, for those of you who might want to roll your own.  (Couscous, that is).

Tagines also feature heavily in North African cookery. A tagine has two meanings - it is a North African stew as well as the conical vessel in which it is cooked.


(photo by kali.ma on Flickr)

The cone-shaped lid holds the rising steam from the stew while the condensation causes the meat to be as tender as an Elvis Presley ballad from 1956.      

The vuvuzela can blow all it likes in South Africa.  It can't distract me from scoring in the Kent Test Kitchen with the tastes of North Africa.   

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