Kseksou (Algerian Couscous)

Algerian Couscous

In Algeria there are many, MANY recipes to learn. But the one recipe every Algerian or anyone that is married to one or going to be, must know is…..COUSCOUS! Couscous itself is a grain made from semolina or durum wheat. But the dish “couscous” is the grain spooned over with a sauce of meat and vegetables. Yes you can prepare couscous without sauce for an easy breakfast with buttermilk on the side or sweeten it up with brown sugar and nuts as it’s eaten in Egypt.

Couscous is originally a Berber dish but has made its way around the Mediterranean. It’s actually been voted as France’s favorite dish. In the recent years the US is catching onto couscous as a healthy alternative for rice right next to quinoa and with that you can simply find the grain at your nearest Whole Foods, and even Walmart *gasps*, lol. But the catch is the traditional way of preparing couscous will not be on the label. This way is the way my husband taught me. The right way, made with love and sweat.

Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 2 pounds meat cubed (chicken, lamb or beef)
  • 3 carrots cut into 3 sections
  • 3 small potatoes cut into quarters
  • 2 zucchini cut into to demi circles
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tomato or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (soaked overnight)
  • 3-4 leaves fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (my husband likes the sauce very red, you may use less.
  • 1 teaspoon ras el hanout
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups water

Couscous:

  • 3 cups couscous grain
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

Sauce:

  1. In your couscousiere heat the 4 tablespoons of olive over medium heat.
  2. Add meat and garlic and brown.
  3. Season with spices, salt, black pepper, paprika, ras el hanout, cayenne powder and cinnamon.
  4. Add tomato or tomato paste and caramelize.
  5. Add potatoes, carrots and chickpeas.
  6. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  8. During the 30 minutes you can prepare the couscous and steam over sauce or cook it completely.
  9. After the sauce has cooked for 30 minutes add zucchini and mint. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  10. Set aside.

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Couscous:

  1. In a large bowl spread out couscous and pour in 1/2 cup of water.
  2. Mix thoroughly and then lightly drizzle with olive oil to make sure each grain does not stick. Mix until every grain is separated.
  3. Bring pot of water to boil and place couscous in steamer over boiling water. Steam for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove couscous and place back into bowl.
  5. Add half the stick of butter and let cool until you are able to handle the couscous.
  6. Mix butter and make sure that there are no clumps of couscous.
  7. Place back into steamer and steam for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Again remove couscous and place into bowl.
  9. Add remaining 1/2 stick of butter and let cool until you are able to handle the couscous.
  10. Mix butter and make sure that are no clumps of couscous.
  11. Place back into steamer and steam for the last time for 15 minutes.
  12. Remove couscous and place back into bowl.
  13. Salt to taste and make sure the couscous is clump-free and fluffy.
  14. Serve with sauce.

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Djedj Bezzitoun (Algerian Chicken and Olives)

Chicken Tadjine

Chicken and olives is the very first “tadjine” recipe I ever learned and of course being in the States I learned without a tadjine. It isn’t necessary to cook this dish in one, but it is used traditionally. This dish is usually called a tadjine throughout the country and is served in one but in the city of Algiers it’s just called chicken and olives, no tadjine required. This dish is paired great with bread as is everything in the Algerian cuisine. You can use any cut of chicken but my husband’s favorite is the leg and mine is the thigh since those are the tastiest parts of meat. Whatever it is you have on hand would surely do the job wonderfully.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium sliced onions
  • 3 pounds chicken (whichever cut you like)
  • 6 ounces green olives
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground saffron
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add sliced onions and sprinkle with salt to help sweat.
  3. Add chicken, season with cumin, cinnamon, saffron, salt and pepper.
  4. Brown chicken slightly.
  5. Add water to just cover the chicken.
  6. In a clean cup warm a half cup of water and add the tablespoon of cornstarch. Whisking fast to ensure there will not be any clumps of cornstarch.
  7. Add mixture to pot.
  8. Simmer for 30-45 minutes add olives and mushrooms. Continue for an additional 5 minutes.

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*As with every recipe that comes translated from Algeria there is a lack of boullion. The meat is very different there than in the States, so if your dish is lacking “richness” in flavor please add a chicken bouillon.

Loubia (Algerian White Beans)

Loubia (Algerian White Beans)

Loubia, Loobia, Lubia!

Loubia is the Algerian comparable of American Chili, Texas Ranch Beans or even English Baked Beans. In Algeria this stew is served in a cassolette with a splash of vinegar, olive oil and of course fresh baked bread. The vinegar and olive oil help to balance the heaviness of this dish. Any vinegar other than apple cider is fine to serve with it. Some people like to have additional ground cumin, minced garlic and chilies to garnish their loubia, so depending on who you are serving it’s nice to have these on the table.

Traditionally haricot beans would be used but as I live in the U.S. we call them navy beans. Great Northern Beans can be used as well, but just any white bean in general is good to use. Also as I’m an American and we do love our beef I added  meatballs made of such. You can easily trade out the beef for lamb or even make it vegeterian. There are so many variations of what you can do with this. There’s even a soup called Chorba Loubia. Just add more water, potatoes and carrots. Perfect for a cold winter night.

Ingredients:

  • 2 onions diced finely
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 pound navy beans (soaked)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

Meatballs:

  1. In a large bowl take your ground beef and season with garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  2. Mix thoroughly and form into 1 1/2 inch balls.
  3. Set aside.

Beans:

  1. In a pot heat olive oil and add onions.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and let the onions sweat until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and continue to saute onions and garlic. Make sure not to brown garlic as it will cause a bitter taste.
  4. Add meatballs and brown.
  5. Once all the meatballs are browned evenly add cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  6. Add beans and 6 cups hot water.
  7. Bring to a boil.
  8. Add tomato paste and bouillon cube.
  9. Let boil for 1 minute, reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 1 hour. Occasionally testing the firmness of the beans.
  10. Let sit for 10 minutes and serve.

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*soak beans the night prior to cooking.

M’thouem Sauce Blanche (Algerian Garlic Meatballs in White Sauce)

Algerian M'thouem

M’thouem or M’tewem is an Algerian dish specifically from Algiers. A  traditional dish during Ramadan; it is composed of meatballs, chickpeas and garlic. In Arabic the word “thouem” means garlic, hence the name M’thouem. The amount of garlic in this dish can be adjusted at will. There are many variations of this dish, as the sauce can be red or white and the chickpeas can be switched out with almonds or served with both. What you pair with it can vary as well, over couscous, or just with bread to soak up the sauce. Either way you serve it, I’m sure this dish will become a staple in your home soon.

Today I will be preparing M’thouem Sauce Blanche as it is my husband’s favorite way for it to be done.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound minced beef (93% lean is best)
  • 3/4 cup chickpeas (soaked overnight)
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup almonds (blanched and split)
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped finely (some people use a hold head, or you can use less)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl combine minced beef, bread crumbs, salt, cumin and black pepper.
  2. Roll into meatballs no larger than a quarter in circumference.
  3. Place meatballs on wax paper and refrigerate for 5 minutes.
  4. In a pot heat olive oil and throw in onions. Sprinkle with salt and let sweat until translucent.
  5. Turning down the heat to medium low, add in garlic. Let sweat quickly making sure not to burn.
  6. Add meatballs to pot and let brown. Browning the meatballs will ensure that they will not fall apart in the sauce.
  7. Once meatballs have browned add chickpeas.
  8. Add hot water just covering the meatballs. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a beef bouillon cube if taste is not rich enough.
  10. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let it do so for 30 minutes. You want the sauce to reduce in half.
  11. 10 minutes before serving add in the almonds.
  12. Serve with a nice crusty bread such as a baguette.

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