Kesra Matlou, Algeria’s staple bread……..

I come from a part of the world where bread occupies an important place and carries a mystic , sacred  significance beyond its mere nutritional qualities,

bread ( khoubz in arabic, Aghroum in Amazigh dialects )  symbolises Allah’s sustenance ( rizk)  and is closely connected to  one’s roots….family and cultural identity.

 In Algeria , like in many other parts of the world ,  there is  a long list of proverbs and idiomatic expressions with the term " khoubz" or kesra, ksour (plural of kesra)" reffering to life’s basic necessities, money and general living conditions…..

 Bread is so highly respected that it’s considered a sin to desecrate it . when finding a piece of a bread in the street,   ,people would   bring it  close to their  lips and forhead as a sort of reverence then put it aside so no one would step on it.

in this outstanding metaphoric passage, , mohamed Dib, one of Algeria’s significant litterature figures of french expression , brillantly describes the deep connection between bread, his love for his mother , and the yearning of past childhood memories….

"Nous vivons dans l’intimite’ du pain.Le notre ne nous etait pas donne’ , je veux dire qu’il ne nous convenait pas qu’il fut fait par d’autres, par un boulanger, un homme,et nous fut remis tout cuit , tout pret, contre de l’argent.Notre pain devait sortir des mains de la mere,pas meme de celle d’une parente……penser au pain nous renvoyait a la mere et inversement ,penser a la mere nous renvoyait au pain .l’un et l’autre etaient si lies que consommer du pain, revenait pour nous a consommer de la mere ,et que, aimer le pain, c’etait aimer la mere"

likewise…in his beautiful poem ( ila ummi /to my mother) palestinian revolution poet Mahmood Darwish depicts his longing for his mother, her  bread, and his lost sweet memories .

أحنُّ إلى خبز أُمي

وقهوة أُمي

ولمسة أُمي..

وتكبرُ فيَّ الطفولةُ

يومًا على صدر يومِ

وأعشَقُ عمرِي لأني

إذا مُتُّ،

أخجل من دمع أُمي

 

 and because I, also long for my mother’s bread and to those childhood happy  souvenirs where I would come back from school and munch a piece of my mother’s homemade kesra with melted butter and apricot jam( Algerian’s favourite jam, lol)  or ramadan long days where she would postpone the making of bread until the evening so we could eat her heavenly matlou  while it’s still warm……

because of all these reasons and many others I’d like to share with you my   modern yet  authentic kesra 

Why authentic ?: because the  recipe respects the true matlou method  that calls for double-stage kneading….the first one with little amount of water so we can thouroughly knead the dough  and the second after adding more water  to get a fluffy result.

Why modern ?: because handling the kesra galette and carring it from the working surface to your tajine/cooking pan is a very delicate step , the dough is so soft and  that you can easily damage the shape…..traditionnaly we would use our bare hands  a a type of  towel that doesn’t stick to the dough  but kouky invented  this clever way of using parchement paper aand solved all the complicated details connected to the kesra cooking. adding milk powder is another  modern twist that make the kesra softer and more delicious.

 Kesra Matlou (,كسرة مطلوع )  it’s a round , leavened,Algerian, semolina  bread , cooked on a typical clay pan called tajine

This is   my  a 60 years  metal tajine,  handed to me by my late grandmother who bought in Algiers during world war II , or " guerrit lingliz" as she used to say .  I  don’t use it often but I dearly keep it as a souvenir of my grandmother and an erra that no longer exists.

kesra Matlou According to kooky’s recipe(CLICK)

INGREDIENTS:

 500 gr of fine semoulina or ( 300g semoulina and 200f flour)

1tbs of dried yeast

1tbs of sugar

4tbs of milk powder

1tsp of salt

+or – 400ml of warm water ( i used  350ml)

bread seeds of your choice ( optional)

few nabs of butter

oil to greese the baking sheets

PROCEDURE:

-in a large bowl ,Put the semolina (or a mixture of  semolina and flour)

 Add sugar, yeast, salt, , milk powder, and the bread seeds of your choice ( optional)

 -Mix well and slowly add about 300ml of warm water.

 Cover and set aside to  allow the dough to absorb the water .

  knead vigorously by gradually adding the rest of water ( I added 50ml ) . This step helps release the gluten that will be respensible in giving a spongy and light bread. you might use your bread machine during this step.

 Cover with cling film and let rise 1 hour or more depending on the season

 punch  down the dough. divide into 2 or three portions .

 incorporate a nab of softened butter into  each  ball.

 place it on a pre-oiled sheet of parchement paper.

 Let stand for a while.

 -flatten each ball into a large disc.

 Cover and leave in a warm place intil it doubles in size . this might take between 1/2h to more than 1h, depending on the season.

 preheat the clay  tagine  or any other iron skillet /pan of your choice.

 lower  the heat, prior to cooking .

  Gently take the parchement paper and place the kesra directly on the pan/tajine

 Carefully peel the parchement  paper , poke it with a tooth- pick or a knife and rotate now ad then to avoid burning the bread. with a help of a large spatula , flip it to the other side and let it cook until golden brown.

 once the kesra is cooked, brown the edges by exposing  it direcltly to the fire

 Enjoy with any gravy -like dish, dips or just on its own

 

 FRENCH

ingredients :

-500gr de semoule fine (ou 300gr semoule+200gr farine)

-1cà s de levure instantanée

-1cà s de sucre

-4 càs de lait en poudre

-400ml d’ eau tiède (+ ou – )

-1càc de sel

-Mélange de graines spécial pain (sésame, nigelle,fenouil,anis)

- une noix de beurre ou smen

huile

PROCEDURE:

Mettre la semoule ( ou le mélange semoule/farine)dans un grand plat ou dans un pétrin

 Ajouter  le sucre, la levure , le lait en poudre,le mélange de graines spécial pain et le sel

 Mélanger le tout et mouiller petit à petit d’eau tiède, environ 300ml au départ

 Couvrir et laisser reposer un petit moment pour  faire absorber l’eau

 Reprendre la pâte et la pétrir vigoureusement en rajoutant progressivement de l’eau tiède. Cette phase est importante pour libérer tout le gluten qui est dans la pâte et qui fera que la galette soit spongieuse et légère. L’utilisation du pétrin facilite le travail .On obtient au final une pâte  très molle

 Couvrir d’un film transparent et laisser lever 1heure ou plus selon la saison

 Reprendre la pâte, la dégazer délicatement et la partager en 2 ou trois selon qu’on veut de petites ou grandes galettes. Les petites étant plus faciles à manipuler.

 -Enduire chaque morceau de pâte de beurre ramolli et former une boule

 Huiler légèrement une feuille de papier cuisson et poser dessus la boule de pâte

 Laisser reposer un moment pour que la pâte se détende

 Aplatir la boule pour former une galette avec les mains  légèrement huilées

 Couvrir et laisser reposer  selon la saison de 30 à 1 heure, la galette doit doubler de volume en épaisseur

  Chauffer un tajine en terre  ou une lourde poêle en fonte

 Au moment de commencer la cuisson réduire un peu le feu

  Prendre délicatement le papier cuisson avec la galette dessus et  placer dans le tajine, le papier en dessus

 Retirer délicatement le papier cuisson et laisser cuire

 Décoller légèrement la galette , vérifier la cuisson et retourner la pour faire cuire l’autre face. On peut s’aider d’une palette en bois

 Laisser cuire la seconde face, trouer légèrement avec un pic

 Décoller,faire bouger la galette pour uniformiser la cuisson, la galette doit étre bien dorée

 Enlever la première galette du tajine et refaire la même opération pour les autres galettes

 Reprendre la galette avec un torchon propre et faire dorer les bords pour finaliser la cuisson

 Laisser refroidir couvert d’un torchon propre avant de découper et se régaler avec un tajine, un h’miss ou simplement avec du beurre et du miel!

Khobz eddar ….Algerian semoulina bread for the world bread day 2011

 After a series of articles that dug  into  Algerian cuisine,its roots and influences,  here comes my first blog recipie  about a typical Algerian bread called khoubz eddar or khoubz koucha, aka,  home made bread or oven bread .

Both bread and yeast symbolise bounty and prosperity , so it’s not randomly that I chose a bread recipe to start my blog with, and mark my participation in the  the world bread day event, initiated by zorra  

As I was saying in my former post, khoubz eddar is a ceremony bread in Algeria , usually prepared during Aids, ramadan, and when receiving guests.  the choices for  decoration and flavoring are  endless.

 my mother for example, would always prepare few bird shaped bread for my sibbling and I , in addition to the more traditional round loaves.  My late grand mother’s khobz, tasted more like a brioche than bread, as  she would only use egg whites  and add home-made orange zest or orange blossom water for extra flavouring.

By right, khoubz edar calls only for fine semoulina, but I prefer to mix it with all purpose flour as it’s hard to get a good quality semoulina in my area.

The following are old pictures taken from my french speaking blog……

INGREDIENTS:

600g  good quality fine semoulina

400g all purpose flour

 100ml oil

1 tablespoon sugar

2teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup  milk +extra water

2 tablespoon active yeast

GLAZE: 1 egg

sesamy or nigella seeds to sprinkle

optianal : 1 tablespoon butter for kneading

orange zest, orange blossom water for flavoring.

Together, sift the flour and semoulina, into a large bowl . add in the dry ingredients .put the oil, milk, and eggs in another bowl and beat with a fork until blended . gradually incorportate the liquid mixture into the flours . add extra water as you knead . place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. knead for 10 to 15 mn or until the dough is smooth and slightly sticks to the fingers. at this stage, you might add in some orange zest or 1tablespoon of orange blossom water if desired  ( I usually don’t ) . for best results, you can use your  kitchenaid or bread machine, as  semoulina bread requires more kneading than flour based breads.

cover with a clean towel and leave in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface,  punch down and knead for 5 to 10mn. incorporate 1 to 2  tablespoon soft butter ( optional) Divide into two equal portions .place them into two pre-oiled trays.roll each portion into a smooth circle about 8 to 10 mn thick. glace with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sesamy or nigella seeds. using a sharp knife,  decorate the surface by scoring deep cut into the loaves or forming deep indents in the middle and drawing lines with the back of a fork.  set aside for 30 minutes or until  well risen

preheat the oven to 200 C. bake for 20mn or until golden brown . leave to cool on a wire rack. serve warm with a delicious tajine.

RECETTE EN FRANCAIS :

ingredients:

600 g de semoule,
400 g de farine,
2 tasses a cafe’ d’huile ( 100ml)
1cas de sucre

2 cac de sel

une  tasse de lait tiede + assez d’eau pour ramasser la pate

2 cas de levure de boulanger

Dorure : un oeuf

greins de sesame ou de nigele pour saupoudrer le pain.

Facultatif : une cas de beurre mou

zeste d’orange ou un bouchon de fleur d’oranger pour aromatiser le pain.

Procedure:

Dans une grande jatter, tamiser ensemble les deux farines. ajouter les matieres seches. melanger les matieres liquides ensemble puis les ajouter aux farines. ajouter de l’eau et continuer a petrir pd 10 a 15 mn  jusqu’a l’obtention d’une belle pate homogene qui cole legerement aux doigts. )vous pouvez a ce stade ajoute le zeste d’orange ou la fleur d’oranger pour aromatiser le pain ( je ne le fais generalement pas )  vous pouvez  petrir votre pate dans une kitchen aid ou a la  machine a pain etant donne’ que les pains de  semoule demandent  un petrissage plus long que ceux a base de farine ordinaire.  couvrir la pate et laisser la doubler de volume a l’abris des courrants d’air.

reprendre la pate, la rabattre ,  . vous pouvez aouter a ce stade une ou deux noisettes de beurre mou, tout en continuant a petrir.  la diviser en deux portions egales que vous etalerez en deux galettes de 8 a 10 mm d’epaisseur . dorer a l’oeuf et garnir de greins de sesame ou de nigele . . laisser lever une demie heure puis mettre a cuire dans un four chaud, pendant  20 mn environ ou jusqu’a l’obtention d’une surface bien doree’.

a consommer tiede avec un bon tajine.

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