Home made dwida…..gritliya ……..another Algerian pasta

To continue my series of posts about Algerian homemade pasta, I ‘d like to shed the light on one of the finest and most difficult  pasta dishes that combine both  othoman heritage  and the amazigh /berber cooking methods ….

the dwida or gritliya as it’s known in my hometown, is a a type of pasta , found only in the Northen cities of Algeria famous with their othoman heritage like Annaba, constantine, Algiers…….etc…….but while the pasta preparation itself is probably Turkish influenced , the method of cooking the dish is typically berber.

 Steaming is an essenciel technique in North African cuisine and a huge number of traditional dishes fall into this category

In fact, the differences between North African and Middleasten cuisine is not solely starch based ( rice versus couscous ) but goes beyond that. North African cuisine with its Berber roots is based around slow cooking  using clay cookwares that  provide moisture and develops flavors to the stews as well as steaming   that allow two dishes to be cooked over the same source of heat.

Dwida or Gritliya is a typical example of how Algerian women fused foreign inherited dishes ( othoman in this case) and giving them a local touches through the steaming technique….

the preparation of the pasta is really hard and time consuming , you need years of watching and exercising to get the right gestures .

to prepare the dough, fine semoulina is gradually mixed with water and kneaded then left to rest for few hours , it is then cut into small balls, and each ball  shaped into  long , extremely thin cords , that would be squeezed  between the tumb and the index.     short, 5 cm long vermicellis are then formed and   left to dry on traditional sieves before   getting  stored.

the following are pictures of the dwida- making – process  ,kindly sent to me  by  my friend  Merry of cuisinetestee’.( Merci merry pour ces precieuses photos qui ont honore’ mon  post. )

you can see  how the dwida is being  shaped and left to dry on the traditional Algerian sieve called gherbal or siyar.

In the past,each summer , during the hot sunny days of August, Algerian women would gather and prepare big amount of different types of traditional pastas called el 3oula or el mouna ……. couscous, trida, mhamsa ( berkoukes/aich) dwida, etc………are prepared for the whole year in a very friendly and joyous atmosphere, women would sing, lough , gossip, share their marital stories or problems, while rolling a grain of couscous or cutting a square of trida…..a true sens of mutual help and fraternity framed by a typical Algerian sociological phenomenon called TWIZA .

because the homemade vermicelli is not begginer friendly, you can replace it by the industrial pasta even if you would miss the authentic taste.

Here are some pictures of dwida prepared with industrial vermicelli pasta.  I grilled half the  vermicelli on a dry frying pan until they got this goldren brown colour and mixed them with the rest of the paquet  to get bicoloured pasta.


Ingredients :1/2 kg lamb meat or few pieces of chicken
500g fresh home or ready made vermicelli pasta
2 tablespoons smen (clarified butter/ghee).
1 finely chopped big sized onion
1 cup chickpeas (soaked over night )
salt to taste
1tsp black pepper
1tbsp cinnamon
safran or 1tsp of turmeric for a golden colour ( optional)For Decoration :
2 or 3 boiled eggs quatered
small meat balls seasoned and cooked in the broth.

traditionnally, we prepare this type of the steamed pasta in the couscous pot, called keskas, the broth in the lower part of the pot and the pasta in the upper part so it gets all the aromas coming out from the broth.

over low heat, place the meat in the lower port of the couscous pot, brown it with the onion, ghee and species , stir continuesly, add the chickpeas and one cup of hot water. give it a few boils then pour 1 and 1/2 L hot water. let it simmer over medium heat.
once the steam rises from the pot. add 1 or 2 drops of oil to the pasta, mix well so it gets coated evenly, and place it on the upper part of the couscous pot , just over the meat broth. let it steam for about 30 to 45 mn.
take down the upper part of the pot, and put the pasta in a deep wooden plate called « gasaa » . add some salt and pepper, and slowly sprinkle over one cup of cold water . let the pasta absorb the liquid. mix well with the tip of your fingers and return pasta to steamer and let it steam for another 30 minutes. return the pasta to the gasaa or the deep plate , with a laddle, scoop the top layer of the meat broth and pour it over the pasta . you may need two or three unfull ladlles. mix well , let the pasta absorb the broth and return it once again to the steamer.
you may need to steam it for a fourth time but if the pasta is well steamed , 3 times should be more than enough. a fresh homemade pasta takes shorter time to get tender.

check the broth. if the meat and the chickpeas are done, before the pasta gets tender. remove them, cover and set aside.

when the pasta is cooked, pour it in a cooking pot , cover it with the meat broth, and let it absorb it over very low heat. i personally prefer to sprad the pasta in a gratin like dish, pour the meat broth , cover it with aluminum foil and place it in the over for 15mn to 20 mn until the pasta absorbs all the broth.

once the pasta is well done. return it to a deep plate, check the seasoning, add some salt and cinnamon powder if required then a knob of butter, mix well. spread the pasta in a deep traditional serving plate , spoon the chickpean in the centre, arrange the meat , boiled eggs and meatballs around .


Ingredients :

1/2 kg d’ agneau ou bien quelques morceaux de poulet
1 grand oignon emince’
une petite tasse de  de pois chiche trompe’ la veille
se, poivre, cannelle, curcuma/safran
faire revenir la viande avec le smen et les epices, ajouter les pois-chiche puis couvrir avec un litre et demi d’eau .laisser cuire.
entre temps, prendre le paquet de vermicelle ,l’enduire avec un peu d’huile pour que ca ne cole pas pd le passage a la vapeur. mettre dans le haut du couscoussier et laisser 30 a 45  mn environ, verser dans une jatte, saler,poivrer et asperger d’un peu d’eau chaude .laisser absorber puis remettre a cuire une 2ieme fois . reverser dans la jatte, verser dessus, 2 ou 3 louches de sauce,laisser absorber et mettre a cuire une 3ieme fois. si la dwida n’est pas encore tendre, repasser a la vapeur pour la quatrieme fois.
apres mettre la dwida, maintenant tendre, dans une marmite, verser dessus la sauce, debarasse’ de viande et de pois chiche. qui doit seulement couvrir la pate,augmenter le feu au depart, puis diminuer a fond et laisser absorber a feu tres deux. 
gouter la pate, rectifier l’assaisonement ou ajouter plus de sauce si necessaire. a la fin mettre une noisette de beurre dans la pate, decorer avec la viande et les pois chiche au milieu, on peut ajouter des oeufs durs et des boulettes de viande hachee’ qu’on jete dans la sauce de cuisson. 


Algerian tajine jben, revisited…..Tajine jben Algerien , revisite’ …

The North African term of « tajine » can be misleading at times, even though its  most populirized definition is that of the Moroccan cone-like claypot in which meat and vegetables are slowly cooked……it has actually a wider meaning that changes  from  region and country to another .

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)

this definition is also shared by the neighbouring Tunisa and Libya……

Being from  the Easten region of Algeria , I would like to shed the light on my own understanding  of tajine….this  » gratin » like dish that reminds me of my childhood, ramadan Iftar tables and lazy summer lunchs where cooked meat, vegy, egg, and generous portions  of cheesed are blended together , popped into  oven and enjoyed with the most hearty bread and the best mediterranean salads…….
In my french blog, i extensively talked about tajines , and shared my family recipes or those  found on the web……..you can find them here, here or here

this is a classical tajine jben recipe with a 2012 look, i.e, a puff pastry crust that make it more delicious……feel free to  add another sheet of puff pastry , the result is even tastier

1 chicken breast1 onion finely chopped
salt, pepper, turmeric150 gr of chredded cheese

3 to 4 portions of cream cheese type  such as « vache qui rit » or « kirri »

optional : vegetables of your choice : 1 potato diced into cubes then fried, grilled pepper , cut into cubes, fresh mashrooms fried with a knob of butter , a pinch of salt, pepper and a tbs of chopped  parsley..etc…….
50 ml of milk, 2 tbs of breadcrumbs
4 eggs


Start by browning the chicken with onions, spices and ghee/butter for few minutes, cover with hot water and let it simmer for 30 mn until the chicken is tender and the gravy reduced to half. allow to cool  , then shred the chicken, pour back into the gravy pan , add in the rest of ingredients. lightly beat until you get a smooth and a well blended mixture.

if you want to bake it the classical version, i.e without the puff pastry base, greese a pyrex dish, put it few minutes in the oven until it gets hot ( this will help you cut the tajine easily and clean the dish without much fuss ) pour over the tajine mixture, sprinkle some additional cheese on top and bake for 20 to 30 mn until firm to touch in centre.

if you like my puff pastry version, line  a cheese cake mould with parchement paper, greese the sides of the mould gently lay the puffpastry sheet into the mould .If possible, chill the the crust before filling and baking. pour the tajine mixture and bake until golden brown and firm in the centre.

un blanc de poulet

sel, poivre, curcuma, smen/beurre

4 a 5  oeufs selon la grosseur,

150 g de fromage rape’, genre gruyere , cheddar

2 cas    de chapelure

50 ml  de lait

.3  a 4  portions de vache qui rit

Facultatif : poignee’ de persil hachee’ et une autre d’olives vertes coupes , un poivron grille’ et coupe’ en des, quelques champinions, coupes en lamelles et  revenues legerement avec une cas de persil hachee’, une noisette de beurre, une pincee’ de sel et une autre de poivre…….. tous ces ajouts sont personnels et facultatifs car ma recette familiale est sans legumes au fait )


faire revenir le morceau de poulet coupe’ en 4, avec le smen et les epices, couvrir d’eau et laisser cuire.
une fois le poulet cuit et la sauce reduite . emietter et le retourner ala sauce .
entre temps, melanger ensenble,oeufs, chapelure, lait, les deux fromage, persil et olives, battre le tout a l’aide d’une fourchette,  ajouter   au melange, sauce/ poulet .
huiler ou beurrer copieusement votre moule, le faire chauffer quelques minutes au four ( pour faciliter le demoulage du tajine et le lavage du moule), versez-y la preparation et enfourner pd une vingtaine/trentaine de minutes.
le tajine sera cuit quand la surface est bien dore’ et un couteau incere’ a l’interieur sortira sec sans aucune trace de liquide. pour reproduire ma version  » quiche-tajine » , il suffit de  prendre un moule a charniere ou a manque’. le tapisser de papier sulfurise’ pour faciliter le demoulage , huiler les parois du moule,  foncer – y une pate feuilletee’. remettre au frais, puis verser le melange ci-dessus. faites cuire dans  un four  chaud jusqu’a ce qu’ un couteau  incere’ sortira  sec.