Sunday, 6 June 2010

Take a Right at Morocco

All roads seem to be leading to Moroccan cuisine these days.  You are seeing an increasing number of cookbooks dedicated to it and tagines are becoming as numerous as Chelsea football trophies  (I had to throw that in for the Englishman.  His team is on a roll.)

But if you take a right when you get to Morocco, you will be in the neighboring country - Algeria.  

How many Algerian cookbooks have you ever seen?  Not many I would bet.   Until last week, I had never seen one. 

I was having a chat at work one day with computer technician, Salem, who happens to be from Algeria.  He might be a whiz with computers, but he also happens to be my couscous mentor.  Couscous is the national dish of Algeria, so I get expert advice on preparing couscous from Salem. 

Algeria is a rather old country.  It's been inhabited by Berbers, Turks, Arabs and French.  These different inhabitants have all left their marks on the food culture of Algeria.  I could see these influences in the Algerian cookbooks that Salem very kindly shared with me.  Dishes were mainly grains (couscous, rice) with meats (lamb, chicken) and plenty of vegetables (courgettes, onion) and adorned with herbs.  It looks like hearty and wholesome food.    

Calamari is delicious in any language.  Here it is fried with salt and pepper.

To read an Algerian recipe, you will need to know French or Arabic.  Being fluent in neither, I had to ask Salem for a translation to understand what was tempting me in calorific ways in this Gateau of Rice -

Here is the rough translation - these rice gateaus are made with milk, cocoa, rice, sugar, ground almond powder, and eggs.  They are put into molds and then put into a bain marie (a water bath) to steam.  They are cooled and then topped with either custard  (creme Anglaise) or chocolate sauce. 

Moroccan food might be of the moment, but I think there's good stuff going on with food next door in Algeria, too. 

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