Thursday, 13 October 2011

Open thread - Thursday

Today we're taking a trip to Algeria, a country of constrasts. It has a beautiful coastline and a vast expanse of desert. The original people of Algeria were the Berbers, then came the Arabs and the French...

North African food is delicious, with very deep flavours. The smells in the kitchen are something else when a tagine is being cooked!

A tagine is a North African stew made in an earthenware dish that has a conical top. You can make a tagine in other types of heavy casseroles, like enameled cast iron, but you can use an earthenware set over a flame tamer. I selected three different recipes, the first two cooked in heavy saucepans and the third using a slow cooker.

Vegetarian Tagine


1 1/2 pounds okra, ends trimmed
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 1/2 pound small boiling potatoes, like fingerlings
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and grated; or peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 teaspoon spice mix (see below)
1 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup water
1/2 preserved lemon, thinly sliced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Place the okra in a large bowl. Salt generously, douse with the vinegar, and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour while you prepare the remaining ingredients, tossing from time to time. Drain the okra, and rinse thoroughly. If the potatoes are not very small (no more than 1 inch wide and no more than 2 inches long), quarter them or cut them in half.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy casserole or (preferably) an earthenware pot set over a flame tamer. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, and stir for about half a minute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, spice mix, turmeric, saffron and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the dissolved tomato paste, and bring to a simmer.

3. Add the potatoes, okra and the preserved lemon. Cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour, adding a small amount of water if the mixture seems dry, until the potatoes and okra are tender and the sauce they have cooked in is thick. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Algerian Spice Mix

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1. Mix all of the spices together. Keep in a jar in a cool place or in the freezer.

Lamb Tagine


1 pound lamb (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pinch saffron
1 teaspoon lemon (zest)
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion (chopped)
1 tablespoon garlic (grated)
1 tablespoon ginger (grated)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (or chopped sun dried tomatoes)
1-2 cups beef stock
3/4 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons harissa
1/4 cup pistachios (chopped, optional)
1/4 cup cilantro (chopped, optional)
1/4 cup parsley (chopped, optional)
1 cup Greek style yogurt (optional)


1. Mix the paprika, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, cayenne pepper, saffron, lemon zest and oil in a ziplock bag.
2. Add the lamb, mix well and marinate the fridge for a few hours to overnight.
3. Heat the oil in a large pan.
4. Add the lamb, brown well on all sides and set aside.
5. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for about a minute.
7. Add the lamb and tomato paste and cover with beef stock.
8. Bring to a boil, reduce the meat and simmer covered until the lamb is fall apart tender, about 2-3 hours.
9. Add the apricots, raisins and more beef stock to cover.
10. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
11. Add the honey and harissa.
12. Serve on couscous and garnished with pistachios, cilantro, parsley and Greek yogurt.

Chicken Tagine 


8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 large carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


* Searing the chicken before adding it to the crock pot is important to lock in flavour.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken pieces and eggplant in the heated oil; stir and cook until the chicken is browned on all sides but not cooked through. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Place the browned chicken and eggplant on the bottom of a slow cooker. Layer the onion, carrots, cranberries, and apricots over the chicken.

Whisk together the chicken broth, tomato paste, lemon juice, flour, garlic salt, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and ground black pepper in a bowl. Pour the broth mixture into the slow cooker with the chicken and vegetables.

Cook on Low setting for 8 hours.


1 cup water
1 cup couscous

Bring water to boil in a saucepan. Stir in couscous, and remove from heat. Cover, and let stand about 5 minutes, until liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork.


I'm a great fan of Algerian music. The three singers in this video are very popular in France.

And here is Rachid Taha on his own, in a strange, weird video, but I like the song.