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.
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…….