Breads of Algeria / Pains d’Algerie

One of the main differences between North African and middle eastern cuisines lies in bread being the sole staple food for the former in contrast to bread and rice for the latter ( except for Lybia whose geography gives it the privilege of being  a cross culture between maghreb and machrek regions )

I was once discussing this matter with an Iranian friend who was  surprised to learn this fact, she Asked me about the  type of  food we offer  our guests during big ceremonies like marriages, and whether we need to bake tons of bread to feed them,  I said that we have other alternatives like couscous , and other local handmade pasta which play the same role as rice in other countries  and invited her to try our Algerian tlitli  ( clic ) that she liked very much.

Wheat is a significant agricultural product in Algeria but the demand for this crop is so high that the government  is compelled  to import more quantities, making the country  among the top ten importers of wheat in the world  , (according to ArabicNews.com)

Like in many other cultures of the world, bread  to Algerians, means more than just food to nourish the body. it has a variety of spiritual and social values that we can detect in the many proverbs and idiomatic expressions that call for the word « khoubz  » or  » kssour » the plural of  » kesra » which litarally means bread in Algerian dialect.

Algerians speak Arabic and a variety of Amazigh/ berber dialects, so bread in Algeria has many synonyms, khobz, kesra, aghroum…..

we say khobz when we speak about bread as a general term, and kesra when we refer to the flat , round, Algerian bread in contrast for example to the french loaf

the Amazigh regions of Algeria, like  Kabylia and Aures use the word Aghroum to refer to bread.

For many years, I was puzzled with the meaning of the word  » kesra » especially after discovering that is also used in Sudan….so thanks to uncle google i came to know  that  » kesra » means « a piece of « ……..something in old arabic , and even found a poem with the phrase » kesratou khobz » meaning a piece of bread.

One of the specificities of Algerian bread is the use of fine semoulina which needs lots of kneading compared to flour based breads.

Algerians cook their kesra on clay griddle called tajine , that is often   put on a sort of brazier  or a tabouna.  tabouna and tajines are important cookware equipements  for Algerian families, you’ll find them  in every household across the country, even the busiest working moms who don’t have time to cook their own bread, will keap these two elements  in their kitchen  in order  to make kesra  during  lasy weekends  or for  ramadan dinners.

different types of tajines

Tabouna

clay tajine, put on the tabouna, ready to cook the kesra:

kesra getting cooked on a metal tajine:

on these tajines, various Algerian bread and delicacies are being cooked, such as :

Kesra matlou which is a leavened, spongious bread , excellent for  main courses dishes or dips:

kesra Rakhsis :

more dense than the former, but no less delicious. rakhis contains no, or less quantity of yeast in addition to the presence of oil

the plain type of tajine  is also used to make baghrir , a North African pancake that you can also find in Morocco and the west part of Tunisia

Mssemens/Mhajebs:

Mssemens are  north african crepes, that remind us of the indian parathas. in Algeria, we call the plain version mssemens and the stuffed one mhajebs. the dough is made out of semoulina  which gives them crispiness and character in comparaison to the flour made versions.

mssemens are cooked on a metal griddle called mraa ,placed  on the above tabouna.

Other than  the tajine  cooked breads, we have also oven baked types that we call khobz koucha or khoubz edar . these breads are made of fine semoulina flour, and enriched with oil, eggs, milk,  and /or zest of orange and orange blossom water.

khobz edar is traditionaly  prepared during ceremonies , ramadan , eid lakbir but also for our own pleasure when we feel like eating it.

In addition to the former types of bread which has been prepared by Arab and amazigh women of Algeria for thousands  of years,  the legacy of french bread culture is very evident in modern Algeria.

The French introduced , their well-known loaves of bread, brioches and other types of european like bread during their presence in the country that lasted more than a century .

In all  Algerian bakeries and bread stores, you will not only find the uniform baguette, but also multiform ones , crowns, sesame round loafs, flat loafs,  brioche, sugar breads , placed proudly on the shelves .

NB: Thanks to my friend kooky who provided me with the pictures of tajines and tabouna

15 commentaires sur “Breads of Algeria / Pains d’Algerie

  1. salam kaouther hanouna,
    comment tu vas ma chere? je te jure que c’est un reel plaisir de te lire, et tu sais a quel point je t’aime, et rabbi ya3lem.
    ton nouveau blog in english, sublisimo…..
    alors elle est comment cette plateforme, car moi le jour ou je me suis inscrite dessus, j’ai rien compris.
    la je garde le lien, je vais le mettre chez moi, et je reviendrai a tete reposer, hihihihi
    on se prepare pour prendre les enfants a l’ecole.
    gros bisous

    • salam tres chere soulafa.
      tres ravie de te lire sur mon nouveau et humble espace. c’est encore vide. tu vas tout lire en quelques minutes. lol
      sinon pour la platforme, oui, c’est vrai que ca parrait comme du chinois au depart, j’ai encore des problemes a situer les photos, mais bon on fait avec. lol
      tres bonne journee’ et bisous aux enfants

  2. oumotalal dit :

    Je ne me lasse jamais de regarder tes créations culinaires, si belles et si utiles en même temps, lkhmouss 3lik.

  3. lind12a dit :

    bravo kaouther tu es très talentueuse l’art de rédiger n’est pas donné à tout le monde moi aussi j’ai un blog que j’ai ouvert il y a un mois chez wordpress sous les conseils de naouel (évasion) mais pour l’instant il est en standby continue à perpétrer la tradition avec de tel article bizzzz

  4. Mounia dit :

    La visite en vaut le detour, quant au récit et l analogue descriptif, ils n ont fait ,qu écarter le petit arbre coquin, qui cache la sulfureuse,odorente,et riche foret qu est notre belle gastronomie Algérienne!je te fais une belle, et basse révérence toute basse, belle Kaouther!

  5. Akila dit :

    Ohhhhh J’ai des larmes aux yeux en voyant tabbouna ma tres chère Kaouther soubhana Allah tout ce k’on fait cuire dessus a un gout different par rapport a la cuisson sur la gaziniere. Avec mon wooden floor impossible sniffff. Merci de refaire revivre nos traditions et nos coutumes a travers ton magnifiqe blog en Anglais sublissimo kom a dit Soulafati mouahhhhhhh mes amies.

    Wish you all the best et k’Allah vous protege.

  6. rado dit :

    you are a great ambassador of our culinary traditions, Well done, i am so proud of you!

  7. Samar dit :

    Salem, je suis super contente que tu decides enfin de reapparaitre avec tes superbes recettes et vas-y doucement a ton rythme pour ne pas trop te lasser, je te comprends c pas toujours evident de prendre des photos d’editer, de joindre la vie de famille a la vie du blog🙂
    en tt cas sois la bienvenue dans ton nouveau blog. bise

  8. esalaamu aleikoum
    machallah and alif mabrouk for the new informational blog Kaouther I’m enjoying it already!

  9. oum rukia dit :

    salam alaykoum
    first of all, I would like to congratulate you for this new site, really it’s an excellent idea to present our customs and traditions in the international language which is English
    the presentation is simply EXCELLENT, we feel ourselves as if we are listening to a beautiful tale!!
    well-written article and beautifully illustrated!!
    thanks so much for this big and beautiful work
    I wish you all the best
    your sister fi ALLAH oum rukia

  10. […] Algeria, being a vast country……the cuisine and the culinary lexicon  is far from being homogenious….. while the west regions and some of the central parts have the same definition od tajine as the neighbouring Morroco , the eastern parts tajine diffrentiates  it self by being a sort of fritata in which cooked meat, eggs, cheese and vegy are blended  and baked……. a tajine can also mean a stew  or a claypan  in which Algerian bread is cooked ( clic) […]

  11. sarah dit :

    I’m loving your blog. As an algerian i’ll be passing this site onto many of my friends who aren’t algerian. I also love the focus on the eastern part of algerian since I think this been underpresented in the past. I’ll continue to use and read the blog.

  12. Thanks for your interest and encouragements Sarah. Saha ramdanek

  13. julie dit :

    I’ve only been in Algeria (Mostaganem) for a week, but have found so much to love here, including the delicious food. I plan on reading ALL you’ve written and look forward to learning from a pro! Kindest thanks

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