Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walima March Challenge - Representing the Tunisian Cuisine

Tunisia, officially the Tunisian Republic (الجمهورية التونسية al-Jumhūriyya at-Tunisiyya), is the northernmost country in Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its size is almost 165,000 km² with an estimated population of just over 10.3 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the north-east. Tunisia is the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. The south of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and 1,300 km of coastline. Both played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the famous Phoenician city of Carthage, then as the Africa Province which was known as the "bread basket" of the Roman Empire. Later, Tunisia was occupied by Vandals during the 5th century AD, Byzantines in the 6th century, and Arabs in the 8th century. Under the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia was known as "Regency of Tunis". It passed under French protectorate in 1881. After obtaining its independence in 1956, the country took the official name of the "Kingdom of Tunisia" at the end of the reign of Lamine Bey and the Husainid Dynasty. With the proclamation of the Tunisian republic in July 25, 1957, the nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba became its first president and led the modernization of the country.

History

At the beginning of known recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 10th century B.C. The city of Carthage was founded in the 9th century B.C. by settlers from Tyre, now in modern day Lebanon. Legend says that Dido founded the city in 814 B.C., as retold in by the Greek writer Timaeus of Tauromenium. The settlers of Carthage brought their culture and religion from the Phoenicians and other Canaanites.


Tunisian Cuisine

The cuisine of Tunisia, is a blend of Mediterranean and desert dweller's culinary traditions. Its distinctive spicy fieriness comes from neighbouring Mediterranean countries and the many civilizations who have ruled Tunisian land: Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Turkish, French, and the native Berber people. Many of the cooking styles and utensils began to take shape when the ancient tribes were nomads. Nomadic people were limited in their cooking by what locally made pots and pans they could carry with them. A tagine is really the name of a conical-lidded pot, although today the same word is applied to what is cooked in it.

Like all countries in the Mediterranean basin, Tunisia offers a "sun cuisine," based mainly on olive oil, spices, tomatoes, seafood (a wide range of fish) and meat from rearing (lamb).

Unlike other North African cuisine, Tunisian food is quite spicy. A popular condiment and ingredient which is used extensively Tunisian cooking, Harissa is a hot red pepper sauce made of red chilli peppers and garlic, flavoured with coriander, cumin, olive oil and often tomatoes. There is an old wives' tale that says a husband can judge his wife's affections by the amount of hot peppers she uses when preparing his food. If the food becomes bland then a man may believe that his wife no longer loves him. However when the food is prepared for guests the hot peppers are often toned down to suit the possibly more delicate palate of the visitor. Like Harissa or chilli peppers, the tomato is also an ingredient which cannot be separated from the cuisine of Tunisia. Tuna, eggs, olives and various varieties of pasta, cereals, herbs and spices are also ingredients which are featured prominently in Tunisian cooking.

Shakshouka

This dish, with many variations, is a popular breakfast in North Africa, especially in Algeria and Tunisia. Most recipes include the eggs, but they can actually be left out if you like. Jewish immigrants from the Maghreb have made this a popular breakfast dish in Israel.

4 to 6 servings

Olive oil -- 3 tablespoons

Paprika -- 1 to 2 tablespoons

Onion, thinly sliced -- 1

Garlic, minced -- 2 to 3 cloves

Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced -- 3

Green and red bell peppers, diced -- 2 to 3

Water -- 1 cup

Salt and pepper -- to taste

Eggs (optional) -- 4

Method

Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Stir in the paprika and cook slightly to color the oil, about 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent and wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to reduce down a little bit. Add the peppers, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep it from drying out.

Using a spoon, form four small indentations in the simmering peppers to hold the eggs. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and slip each from the bowl into an indentation. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.

Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.

Variations 2

Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed to the hot oil for about 15 seconds before you add the paprika. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground coriander along with the onions.

For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of Harissa paste or a minced Chile pepper with the onions.

Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.

Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.

Add 1 potato, cut in a small dice, along with the peppers.

Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs. Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.

Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.

Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.

Variations 3

Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed to the hot oil for about 15 seconds before you add the paprika. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground coriander along with the onions.

For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of Harissa paste or a minced Chile pepper with the onions.

Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.

Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.

Add 1 potato, cut in a small dice, along with the peppers.

Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs. Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.

Makroud, Tunisian Date Pastry Recipe


Makhroud are small semolina cakes cut in the shape of lozenges, stuffed with dates, hazelnuts, or almonds, deep fried in oil and drizzled with honey or sugar syrup.

Semolina pastry

- 200 g (7 oz.) fine semolina (I used 300 gm semolina)

- 2 g (1/2 tsp.) ground saffron (pinch of saffron)

- 100 ml (6 Tbsp.) vegetable oil (40 ml olive oil)

- 20 g (4 tsp.) butter (110 gm butter)

- a pinch of salt

¼ cup of orange blossom to dissolve the saffron

Filling

- 150 g (5 oz.) dates (or other variety) 300 gms dates

- 1 orange ( I didn’t use)

- 2 g (1/2 tsp.) ground cinnamon, ½ cardamoms, and ½ nutmegs

Syrup

- 150 g (5 oz.) sugar

- 75 g (3 oz.) honey

- 1/2 lemon

- 50 ml (3 Tbsp.) geranium flower water, or orange flower water

- ½ cup water

Decoration

- Toasted sesame seeds

- Or ground almonds

Other

- Oil for frying --- I baked mine instead of frying and dipped in the syrup.

Method

1st step

Heat and clarify the butter.

Combine it in a bowl with the vegetable oil.

Prepare the pastry by putting the semolina, saffron and salt in a bowl.

Add the clarified butter/oil mixture.

2nd step

Combine everything with a spatula.

Gradually add in 100 ml (6 Tbsp.) warm water to form elastic dough.

3rd step

Knead the dough on a work surface.

Form into a ball and spread out using the heel of your hand.

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, covered with a damp cloth.

4th step

Prepare the filling by pureeing the pitted dates in a blender.

Peel the orange and cut the zest into small dice.

Combine the dates, orange zest and cinnamon into a paste.

Top of Form

Shape into 3 cylinders.

Bottom of Form

5th step

Knead the dough again with the heel of your hand.

Divide into 3 equal pieces.

Form into cylinders 2 cm in diameter.

Using your fingers, form a cavity along the length of the cylinders.

Fill with a cylinder of date filling.

Seal the edges of the dough to enclose the filling.

Smooth and shape the cylinder lengthwise.

6th step

Using the wooden press, flatten the pastry (or use a rolling pin).

Cut the cylinders into rectangles and cut into equal-sized lozenges.

Squeeze the juice of half the lemon.

Combine the ingredients for the syrup.

Fry the lozenges in hot oil until golden.

Drain on paper towels before immersing in the syrup.

***This dessert is very similar to Maamoul Mad, a Lebanese dessert made from the same ingredients and baked in a tray , combining two layers of semolina dough (using only more butter no saffron) and the centre is stuffed with the date filling. Baked in the oven and then drizzled with the Lebanese Syrup. Check my posting for the recipe.















7 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Two specialities I very much like! Those Makrouds look lovely!

Cheers,

Rosa

mamatkamal said...

My mom used to make those, we call them Ma9roud, stuffed with home-made dates paste. Thanks for the info , I didn't known this treat comes from Tunisia.
Your Ma9roud looks so delicious Arlette!
Cheers

Adele @ WillworkforBiltong said...

Oh yes! The makhroud looks fabulous. I've never even heard of geranium flower water. Sounds delicious.

Saveurs et Gourmandises said...

J'aime beaucoup tes 2 réalisations.
Les makrouds sont joliment réussis.
A bientôt.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What gorgeous pastries Arlette! :o Thankyou for sharing the recipe, I haven't tried Tunisian cuisine that much but what I have I've really liked :D

://: Heni ://: said...

Machallah your Maqrout is lovely, love the fan idea! Much more elegant then the ususal losanges. Cannot wait til the next challenge!

tasteofbeirut said...

The fan makroud looks so beautiful! wow! I was squeamish on trying it as I thought it sounded very complicated. Beautiful job!