Algerian pastry

Rich, crunchy, nutty,honey-soaked, charming  , and beautifully  shaped…….this is  how I would describe the  Algerian pastry……..

Algerians take cookie baking very seriously , they’re always in constant search for new ideas to diversify the design of their traditional pastries , sparing , hence,  no effort or material to create new decadant delights . To my despair , every time I go back to Algeria , I find that the level of cookie is being  raised to a whole new level of sophistication and feel so  » left-behind » with the simple recipes I make for my  family!

So why this obssesion with cookies ?

simply because my fellowcountrymen  have a serious sweet tooth and no afternoon-tea in Algeria is possible  without a cookie. if you ever  get yourself invited to share a cup of coffee with an Algerian family, don’t expect to find savory tidbids but a wide range of of traditional homebaked goodies , displayed  in a round copper tray called siniya along side mint tea , turkish coffee or cafe’ au lait.
This post is an attempt  to categorize the different types of Algerian cookies, because even though people tend to give them the umbrella name of  » patisserie orientale »  every North African or Middle- Eastern  country has its own range of cookies that  may necessarily not be shared with the neighbours…..

Honey-dipped cookies ( halawiyat  maasla  ):

this type of cookies is very  popular in Algeria like elsewhere in the south and east part of the middeteranean . Once baked or fried,  they are generally  dipped or soaked in honey    then garnished with grounds nuts or sesamy seeds . They include makroud, baklawa, ktayef , griwech , mhancha, samsa etc……in addition to a whole new range of modern cookies that have been created in the last decade .


Royal ice -coated cookies ( gateaux glaces):

Unlike the former gategory ,these  cookies are  almost typical to Algeria. Except for the Tunisian » mlebess » , you will not find ice-coated cookies elsewhere in the arabworld ….these conffections  which  are  often  almond or nut based are first  baked then dipped in royal icing and left to dry before being beautifully  decorated . they include  » mkhabaz, arayech, couronnes glacees etc…….

Ice sugar coated cookies:

this type of cookies are often  almond based, whether or not  coated with a thin layer of dough   , they are usually   baked for few minutes then   soaked in a syrup and finally  showered  with ice sugar, they include tcharek lemsaker  and the famous makroud elouz

No bake cookies ( gateaux sans cuisson :

There is  a large  selection  of cookies that fall into this category , either traditional one  like « rfiss » that uses typical local ingredients such    as semoulina, and dates or modern types   like » bniwen  » which is a great way  to  recycle  those ramadan delicacies like  halwat halkoum ( turkish delight)  halwat  tourk ,  chocolate and  bisckuit crumbs . this category includes  rfiss, taminat louz, hrissa, kefta, bniwen to name a few   ……..


Petit Fours : These are the cookies that Algerians make on regular basis to accompagny  their afternoon treats. cheap ingredients such as  flour, egg  , butter and  oil,  are used  in contrust with the above categories that often call for the use of   expensive nuts. examples of these cookies include ghrayba, halwat tabaa, halwat lambout  , sables, croquant,and other  petits fours with different flavours etc…….

Big Thanks  for my friends , kouky ( clic), Naima ( clic) , Naouel ( clic) for kindly  allowing me to use their photos.

NB: My apologies for the photos who appear jumbled and not in the order I put them in my dashboard

Entertaining…..another hobby of mine

Receiving friends and family around a big plate of couscous or a ramadanese table filled with mouth-watering delicacies are part and parcel of my childhood memories.

The scent of orange blossom water and honey, or the charcoal-grilled pepper mixed with the flavors of the chorba fill me with nostalgia…

Fate has taken me from my beautiful  Mediterranean city to the shores of  south east Asia where I came to know beautiful and kind-hearted people with whom I have always the pleasure to share a bit of my Algeria through my cooking and entertaining…….

These are some of the dishes I  like to share with my guests, they usually include chorba frik, various types of boureks, Algerian salads, tajine ezitoun, chti’tha..and big plates of honey-soaked Algerian deserts…

The photos are taken from my french speaking blog ( clic )

Algerian cuisine…..A Pinch Of History

Algeria is the largest country in Africa ( now that Sudan has been devided). in its long and fertile shores in the north , proud mountains in the interrior and endless desert in the south lives a cuisine that blended and fused with all anciant civilasations that enhabited its land.

Berber/Amazigh cuisine :

the berber way of cooking is very present in modern Algerian cuisine with its various dishes and deserts calling mainly for wheat, dates, beans , honey, clarified butter and semoulina……dishes like couscous, chakhchoukha , baghrir, braj, sfenj, mssemens are part and parcel of our celebrations and mornings.
the Berber way of cooking is unique as it combines both slow cooking of meat and vegetables and the steaming of couscous grains and other  handmade Algerian  pasta before combining both and get  scrumptuous and flaffy grains that marvel the gourmet and the hungry alike.

Andalusian influence:
After the fall of granada in 1492, thousands od Andalusian muslims and jews fled the Ibirean peninsula and established large cummunities on the other midetteranean shores but mainly in North Africa for obvious geographical reasons……
Andalusians brought new dimensions to the Algerian cuisine with a rich combinations of sweet and savory flavors, new spices and techniques…..
Tajine lahlou is the ultimate example of the Andalusian influence…….a sweet tajine composed of dry or fresh fruits ( prunes, apricot, raisins, apples, pears , quinces….), meat, spices , butter , honey and orange blossom water and is usually offered to guests as s sweet touch after a row of  savory dishes……it is also    prepared to mark the beggining of the wholy month of Ramadan symbolizing, hence, the hope for a sweet month ……..

Othoman Influence :

the Othoman presence in Algeria lasted for 3 centuries , beginning in 1551 when   khayredine and barberousse brothers  came to help the local population fight the European invasions and took an ubrupt end in 1830 with the french conquest of the country.

During this long period , the Koulughli ( the Turkish/Algerian population) and the eminent cooks of the various beys and deys of Algeria helped install a new urban cuisine that combined fine local ingredients with Turkish- brought recipes.
Nowdays, many Algerian dishes find their roots in the Othoman cuisine…….the ramadan table in Algeria is a typical example of the turkish influence , with its  various dolmas, boureks, turkish halwa, loukoum , mhalbi , baklawa …….to name few….

Ramadan table …..a window to Algerian cuisine :

Algerians truly believe and practice the saying of  » keeping the best for the last  » ……and by the last , I mean the wholly month of ramadan in which people enter a phase of contemplation and complete devotion to the almighty…. ,
during this month , muslims around the world carry  a special attachment to their ancestral cuisine . Algerians are no different.

Algerian ladies prepare a wide range of tajines, mixing and matching all types of meat, vegetables , dried and fresh fruits …..and of course a huge number of sweet delicacies .
if one would really want to discover the true Algerian cuisine ,one should visit an Algerian household during ramadhan where the cuisine goes back to its roots and noble and hidden dishes are cooked and passed down to a new generations ……
chorba, tajine lahlou, various dolmas, mhalbi, kalb elouz , mesfouf……..are among a long list of delicacies that characterize the Algerian table of ramadan……

Pied noire influence:

The year 1830 saw the beginning of the French colonialism of Algeria that would last more than one century and would change the face and the  fate of the country.

In an effort to populate Algeria with more European citizens, French Governement , encouraged   the  massive exodus of new Italian, Spanish and Maltese immigrants who came to Algeria in search  of a better life. The term  » pied noir  » was ,therefore, born  to mean  the black feet that reffered to the  boots of the new  European settlers in contrast with   the sandals  usually worn by the local populations

on the culinary level,  arabic and jewish sephardic cuisine of Algeria started to blend with the spanish, french and italian cooking , giving birth to a true mediterranean kitchen , called  » la cuisine pied noire »

It’s also  during this period that France discovered the couscous and taught it to the rest of the world…..

Algerian modern cuisine is very much influenced by this historical period of the country…..the french baguette became a staple food in Algeria along side the  » kesra » ….the various french pastry such as  the different  pies, mille feuille and choux are shown on daily basis on the window of Algerian bakeries…..

New pied noire appetisers and deserts  were born during this era  like the crepone’ ( lemon sorbet ) « the coca « an algerois finger food filled with grilled pepper tomato and onion and its bonois cousin  » les caldis » that used to be sold by the maltese immigrants….

Despite the departure of the European settlers in 1962 ( the year of the Algerian independance )  Algerian cuisine still caries an impact on the former pied noir people who continue to prepare  couscous , chakchouka and makroud to mark their cultural heritage…….