« Braj  » or how to celebrate Spring the Algerian way……Braj…..ou comment celebrer le printemps a l’Algerienne…..

From the dawn of history, Spring has always been a symbol of hope and rebirth ,a time to celebrate the return of light and warmth, and new crop planting after months of harsh and tiring weather .
Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians with their “ cham enissim” or Persian “and their “noruz” celebrated the return of spring with house cleaning, picnicking and the preparation of a given food typical to each culture…..
Algeria, whose history has mingled with all its neighboring mediterranean civilizations , is no exception. Even though the celebration has no official status, people of the eastern part of the country continue to celebrate the coming of spring that falls on the beginning of March according to the crop- based ,Amazigh calendar.
 Men, women and children get outside for a picnic enjoy nature  , collect edible plants and eat « braj » which is a sort of semoulina shortbread , sandwiched with date paste and flavored with orange blossom water.This celebration is called  » rbi3″ or  » tafsout » meaning spring in arabic and Amazigh . for more info, click on this link  that depicts the celebration of tafsout in Aures , one of the eastern provinces of Algeria.Indeed for the Algerian collective memory, braj is the symbol of spring and the beautiful weather ……and when march is around the corner, either they have time to go for a picnic or not, people would remember this typical Algerian cake and enjoy it with a big glass of  « lben  »

the term braj, means losange in Algerian dialect. until a near past, this was the favourite shape of Algerians, every thing edible would be cut into a losange or a diamond shape… makroud, rfiss, braj, watermelon, even baklawa, tthe worlwide turkish delicacy is cut into lozanges. this opssession with the shape go beyond food and can be extended into jewelery , carpet , potery drawings and even to the tatoos worn by elderly women …… I am not a sociologist nor a historian but I dare think it’s one of the infuences of Amazigh culture ….
nowedays, the spell of the diamond shape has been broken in pastry giving birth to tens  of new cookies with different shapes and forms…….
And because, we like braj, and enjoy the scent of food that take us back to our childhood, I prepared it this weekend  : 
Note that Algerians traditional recipes measure the volume of ingredients and not their weight. the idea is to take any measure , be it a cup, a glass or a big container , fill it three time with the dry ingredients (semoulina in this case) and one time with fat ( butter, ghee, etc….) the choice of the measure will determine the quantity of the pastry…..if you want a small quantity, choose a small containeer, and vice-versa…….INGREDIENTS :3 measures of semoulina ( I  used  a coffee mug  )
1 measure of ghee /clarified butter
2 pinches of salt
orange blosom water diluted in water

FILLING:: I can’t give you an exact amount since the quantity used depends on the amount of date you want to have in the cake. I personnally like to have a generous layer of date paste .

date paste, a pinch a cinnamon, and few drops of oil to knead the paste


mix the semoulina with the melted and cooled ghee, add the pinch salt, rub it with the palm of your hands as you would do with makroud, so that the ghee gets fully incorporated by the semoulina. leave the mixture to stand for few hours.

•Gradually add the orange blossom water and the water mixture until you get nice dough , neither dry, nor too soft. let it stand for half an hour.

in the meantime, knead the date paste with cinammon and oil, if you fancy, add a spoonful of toasted sesamy seeds.
on an oiled cling film, flatten and give it a round shape

divide the semoulina dough into two equal balls .

flatten one of the semoulina balls, place the date paste on top and cover it with the remaining semoulina ball. flatten this sandwich cake with a rolling pin .
 cut into losanges or squares and cook on a low-heated, un-greased « tajine » or » mraa  » returning both sides with a spatula until they get a nice golden brown colour.
Enjoy, warm or cold with a glass of buttermilk or your favourite drink


c’est une specialite’ Algerienne qu’on prepare au debut de mars pour marquer la venue du printemps:

Alors il vous faut:
3 mesures de semoule
une mesure de beurre clarifie’  fondu et refroidi
2 pincees de sel
eau+eau de fleur d’oranger.
ghars(pate de datte ecrasee’) travaillee’ avec un peu de canelle et huile  

melanger la semoule,le sel,et le beurre fondu.bien travailler en frottant entre les mains.ajouter progressivement le melange eau et fleur d’oranger, jusqu’a l’obtention d’une pate maniable.deviser la en deux boules identiques. 

entre temps,mettre un grand sachet ou un papier film sur la table de travail,, huiler le legerement,deposez la pate de datte dessus et l’aplatissez en formant un cercle d’environ 1,5cm de diametre. 

prendre une boule de pate,l’abaissez en formant une grande galette.soulever le sachet et deposez dessus la pate de datte .

 abaisser la deuxieme boule de bate et deposer la sur la pate de datte
 . etaler la galette avec le rouleau a patisserie ou la paume de la main .couper la galette en bandes dans le sens de la largeur ,pour faire des losanges .

 faire chauffer le tajine ou la poele , diminuer le feu .faites cuire les losanges sur les deux faces ,et degustez avec l’ben.

Bonne degustation