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October 22, 2005

Tunisian Octopus Soup by Anis Toumi


(Photo courtesy of Jaz in the city)

This is a spicy Tunisian octopus soup, we like piquant flavors with seafood. Octopus must be cooked quickly or very slowly to make it tender. Some say a cork helps to tenderize the octopus during cooking. I suggest to put the cork somewhere else. In other words, put a cork in it for silly cooking tips. I am sure though I have given out some funny ones too.

Continue reading "Tunisian Octopus Soup by Anis Toumi" »

October 19, 2005

Tunisian Couscous with Seven Vegetables by Anis Toumi

Tunisian cooking is Berber, Arab (Hispano-Arab) and a bit Sicilian. By Sicilian I mean the things the Saracens took to Sicily, brought back to Tunisia/Algeria and what the European colonials also brought. If you look at a map you can see how close Tunisia is to Sicily. There are more layers, but basically I think it's easiest understood along this trinity.

Seven is considered a lucky number in the Maghrebi countries. This is one version I make. I have others too. I do not like to argue about what should go into what.  I don't care what another cook thinks should go into my recipes. Okay, I care to learn, but I do not like experts telling me what to add.

I am very pleased to say that Paz has been preparing some of my recipes and is enjoying them.

Continue reading "Tunisian Couscous with Seven Vegetables by Anis Toumi" »

October 11, 2005

Couscous with 7 Vegetables a Moroccan Specialty by Anis Toumi

Couscous with seven vegetables is made in Morocco and Algeria, but not Tunisia? This is another dish that Moroccans sometimes like to claim they invented when talking to tourists. Not all Moroccans talk to tourists. How do you invent a couscous dish with seven vegetables? How is this invented in Morocco and not in Algeria or Tunisia?

1) A sneaky Algerian saw a creative Moroccan cook putting 7, not 6 or 8 but 7 in a dish and stole the idea.

2) Tunisians never have 7 vegetables at hand to make couscous with 7 vegetables. Sometimes we have 5 or 6, other times we have 8 or 9, but never 7.

3) The number 7 does not exist in Tunisia. When we count our fingers we skip over the 7th one as if it does not exist.

Continue reading "Couscous with 7 Vegetables a Moroccan Specialty by Anis Toumi" »

September 20, 2005

Tunisian Chicken Chorba by Anis Toumi

This is one version of Tunisian chorba. Chorba means soup.  Why is it different from a Moroccan chorba? The heat from peppers of course. If you read a recipe for spicy, as in hot, Moroccan dish chances are you are reading a recipe that is Tunisian or Eastern Algerian that someone is just calling "Moroccan" for the sake of touristy imagery. Traditionally Moroccans did not embrace the chili pepper. Harisa became a restaurant item in Morocco for tourists than Moroccans started using it at home. There is a huge gap in the way Moroccans and Tunisians spice the same dishes. This huge gap is called the country of Algeria. I will leave the job of filling in the gap to Farid.

Tunisia is the smallest country in the Magrheb and it is also the most unified. Algerians can argue endlessly about the spicing and seasoning for a dish. I have seen this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. Sometimes there is much shock, "you put peppers in that?!?!?" Or, "you put nutmeg in your chorba?!?!?!" Or, "you put cinnamon in your mesfouf or bil zbib??!!?"

The Moroccan specialty is to argue they invented the cuisine of the Magrheb. They will incorrectly claim that pastilla and chicken with olives and preserved lemons  were "invented" in Morocco. I have a recipe for a spicy Tunisan fish pastilla that I will post later.

A Tunisian chorba should have the robust flavors of garlic, peppers and spices. This is not about delicate flavors, it is about big, bold satisfying flavors. Tunisians will usually agree that most dishes should be hot. A wife who does not love her husband makes him mild dishes.

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September 13, 2005

Tunisian Couscous with Fennel, Red Peppers and Garlic by Paula Wolfert

Of the numerous North African couscous recipes I've come across since writing "Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco," this red and green Tunisian specialty is one of my favorites. The melange of dill and fennel, celery leaves, red pepper flakes, and spices makes for a light and delicious couscous. In winter, in Tunisia, large fennel bulbs produce 18-inch stalks bearing bushy bunches of thin fernlike greens. You may have tried fennel tops and found they have little taste, but when you use a hefty amount of these greens you will discover that they have flavor and can contribute real earthiness to a dish. There are numerous variations on this recipe. In the city of Sfax, they make it with malthouth, or grilled and cracked barley grits, instead of couscous grains. I have also tasted it when made with whole wheat couscous. But the best version is this recipe using ordinary store-bought couscous. The recipe is originally from the Tunisian Sahel. It  was given to me by Aziza ben Tanfous, curator of the Sidi Zitouni Museum on the island of Jerba, who learned it from her grandmother.

Continue reading "Tunisian Couscous with Fennel, Red Peppers and Garlic by Paula Wolfert" »

September 05, 2005

Spaghetti with Seafood Tunisian Style by Anis Toumis

Spaghetti_fruitsdemer_1The Saracens of North Africa, primarily Tunisia and Algeria, introduced semolina pasta to Sicily.

Clifford Wright writes about in depth in this article.

I just found out that Mr Wright has a new TV show in development called A Cook's Tour and the first episode is in Sicily.

The series premiere on the origins and lore of pasta begins in an out-of-the-way taverna in Sicily, where a vivacious host promises to teach Cliff Wright family secrets of a fine pasta dish. But before we begin the cooking lesson, we visit a desert city 90 miles to the South, possibly the birthplace of pasta. Along the way, Cliff explains how spaghetti evolved from its ancient cousin, couscous, and he dispels the popular myth that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy via China.

(photo courtesy of Jaz in the city )

Continue reading "Spaghetti with Seafood Tunisian Style by Anis Toumis" »

September 03, 2005

Fish from the Island of Djerba by Anis Toumi

Couscoussier(Photo courtesy of Paula Wolfert)

This is a three tiered couscoussier. Most of you probably have never seen one. It is used to create a three course meal over a single source of heat.

A soup or broth bubbles on the first level and a delicate fish, chicken or lamb dish is steamed on the second level and finally couscous is steamed on the third.

The preparations can be wonderfully mild and delicate to robust and assertive. That is the range of North African cooking.

But I am Tunisian and as I've said before I like my hot peppers and garlic. Who knows why the Tunisians adore hot peppers so much? The Algerians use them too of course but not as much.

The first time Farid told me that his family rarely used peppers, not even the sweet ones, in their cooking I looked at him like he must be missing something. Of course he is correct to say that amount of heat or spices to not make a dish more or less authentic. They are so many variations between cook to cook. (A little secret between us, Farid does not like fish with couscous, he thinks it's totally weird. He's a really picky eater too :-))

Continue reading "Fish from the Island of Djerba by Anis Toumi" »

August 28, 2005

Fried Potatoes Algerian Style by Farid Zadi

Img00002_7The host for the 18th edition of Is My Blog Burning? is At Our Table.

The current edition's theme is "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying!"

I submit Algerian fried potatoes. Fries cut into sticks are also popular in Algeria. But the disk cut fries have their own appeal.

In the photo to above you will see how they puff up when cooked, creating a thin crispy top.

Continue reading "Fried Potatoes Algerian Style by Farid Zadi" »

August 21, 2005

Tunisian Coucha by Anis Toumi


Chef Haouari Abdelrrazak has a small restauant called Chez Haouari in Djerba, Tunisia. He is a classically trained French chef. I have not met him, I get this information from Paula Wolfert.

The next time I go to Djerba I will visit him.

(photo courtesy of Jonathan Day)

The dish shown as I know it is called coucha in Tunisia. Farid would also call it a coucha or a tangia. The Algerians have multiple names for dishes.

Continue reading "Tunisian Coucha by Anis Toumi" »

August 20, 2005

Announcement by Farid Zadi

I started my Algerian cuisine blog a couple of days ago.

Also, if you are a food blogger please place a marker on this map. Double click on to your location to place your mark!

J'ai commence mon blog sur la cuisine Algerienne ,il y a quelques jours.

Si tu es un cuisine blogger, mets une marque sur cette carte  et double click sur celle ci.

EDIT: I'm starting to feel a little guilty for not translating some of my posts into French. French speaking bloggers, forums and internet users in general have been very supportive of me. I will try to translate my Algerian cuisine blog into French, especially the recipes as soon as I can. I would need help with Arabic though.

August 15, 2005

Preserved Lemons by Farid Zadi

Pict0076Preserved lemons are used in Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking.


4 lemons, quartered. Meyer lemons are very good, but you can use regular lemons.

1 1/2  cups coarse salt
water or lemon juice.

Toss the lemons with salt, pack tightly into a jar. Top with lemon juice or water and more salt.  Do not use metal lids, they will corrode, use plastic or glass. Let cure  at room temperature for about a month, after opening place in the refrigerator where they will stay good for about a year.

Continue reading "Preserved Lemons by Farid Zadi" »

August 10, 2005

Algerian Spice Blends by Farid Zadi

Spices(Photo courtesy of Adam Balic, prepared for mrouzia)

The spices are: Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, star anise, tumeric, ginger, allspice, green cardamon, black cardamon, wild fennel, long pepper, rose buds, cloves, grains of paradise, black pepper, chiles, coriander and cumin.

This recipe represents the characteristics of ras el hanout (also transliterated as ras el haout) that I look for. There is a range of flavors: sweet, hot, bitter, pungent, earthy and floral. The proportions of each spice can vary, but my personal preference would be add just a touch of cinnamon.

Continue reading "Algerian Spice Blends by Farid Zadi" »

August 09, 2005

Bil Zbib Recipe by Paula Wolfert

Hrccsaveur(photo of Bil Zbib from Saveur magazine. "roll your own" was chosen one of their "100 best things to do")

Bil Zbib is a sweet couscous dish eaten for breakfast or dessert in North Africa.

1 cup golden raisins

4 cups steamed couscous

6 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons sugar


Confectioners' sugar

1.  Soak the raisins in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain.

2.  Thirty minutes before serving, bring water back to the boil. Return the couscous to the colander or top container and steam uncovered. Spread drained raisins and butter over the steaming couscous and steam 15 minutes.

3.  Dump couscous onto a wide shallow serving dish and toss with the drained raisins, butter, cinnamon and granulated sugar. Gently fluff the couscous; pile in a mound, decorate with lines of cinnamon and dust the top with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm or cool.

August 07, 2005

Roll Your Own..... Couscous by P. Wolfert

(updated with more photos)

I know! Just the thought of making your own couscous gives you a headache, but in fact it's easier than making your own pasta or bread and delivers the same satisfaction: a sense of wonder at the magic of it all.

I don't know why it took me so long to start teaching homemade couscous. Once I did, putting on a show costumed in my printed blue and white pantaloons and sitting on the floor the way North African women do, I remembered how much fun it was and how astonishing the results.

Now spurred on by terrific feedback from my students, I demonstrate couscous making whenever I get the chance. I've taught the staff at Chez Panisse and at the Napa Valley Culinary Institute of America. I like to think that there are chefs across the country who are 'rolling their own'- couscous, that is.

Hrcpw(Photo of Paula Wolfert making homemade couscous taken by Christopher Hirsheimer in 2001)


Continue reading "Roll Your Own..... Couscous by P. Wolfert" »

Tunisian Spice Blends by Chef Anis

Tunisian_spicesWhat is North African cooking without spices? It's still North African. We use spices when we have them, we don't use them when we do not. Maghrebi cooks do not fixate on what we do not have. We prepare what we do have with care, love and time.

Continue reading "Tunisian Spice Blends by Chef Anis" »

August 03, 2005

Tunisian Cuisine by Anis Toumi

First I'd like to thank mon frere Farid for inviting me to be an author on this blog. I am also a chef instructor at The California School of Culinary Arts., Le Cordon Bleu Program. I was born in Tunis and graduated from culinary school there. My parents were diplomats to France, so my childhood was spent between the two countries.

My name Anis is Berber, culturally I am both Arab and Berber. I will write about my family's cooking, the dishes I learned in culinary school and while traveling, I will also write about the history and culture of Tunisia, especially Carthage.

I agree with Farid about a larger sense of Maghrebi culinary and cultural continuity and Algeria's  role in it. It is the largest country of the Magrheb and by obvious geographic location shared history with it's Magrhebi neighbors of Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.

But enough about Farid and Algeria, there is a Tunisian in the house now.

Continue reading "Tunisian Cuisine by Anis Toumi" »

July 30, 2005

The March of Couscous by Farid Zadi

Typical_cuzcuz(Photo of Brazilian cuzcuz courtesy of Nana in Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Hard wheat semolina couscous is a Berber creation and the staff of life in the Magrhreb countries of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. One of the earliest written references is in an anonymous thirteenth century Moorish cookbook. There is some evidence that the style of cooking couscous  has it's origins in West Africa where couscous dishes are oftentimes made with millet.

There are written references on how  quickly couscous  spread to the Mashriq or Arab Levant, especially berkukis (semolina pasta balls) that later became called Maghribiyya meaning to make like the Maghrib  is a clear reference to it's origins.  A 13th century Syrian historian describes four recipes for couscous, one of them is called Maghribian.

Israeli couscous is toasted berkukis and is not an Israeli culinary invention, rather it is a marketing term invented in the 1950's by a firm in Tel Aviv. To suggest that it was 'invented' and not related to couscous, maghrbiyya or berkukis betrays ignorance of well documented historical facts. Most likely couscous and berkukis were introduced by Sephardic Jews into Israel.

Continue reading "The March of Couscous by Farid Zadi" »

July 28, 2005

Tunisian Fricassee by Farid Zadi

Tunisian fricassee is unlike any other dish tagged with the word "fricassee." Fricassee in Tunisia refers to a fry bread sandwich stuffed with typical Tunisian sandwich ingredients.

The French introduced sandwiches when they colonized North Africa. Baguette bread is the most commonly used. I discussed the possible origins of this sandwich with Anis, aTunisian friend  and colleague of mine who attended culinary school in Tunisia.

We concluded that  fricassee is a play on meaning,  fri=fry and casse=breaks, the bread is fried and then 'broken' or split to be stuffed with tuna, capers, hard boiled egg, parsley and harisa.

We also concluded that the fry bread was invented by street vendors who oftentimes did not have access to baguettes or ovens to bake their dough. By frying the dough they had self-contained businesses.

If you want to try making this at home you can use a basic baguette dough recipe that calls for 2 cups of flour.  After the dough has gone through it's first rising  split it into 8 balls and flatten gently into a disk, let rise again and fry in hot oil.

July 26, 2005

Couscous by Farid Zadi


I received an endearing email the other day from a woman who is half Algerian asking me for an Algerian couscous recipe she remembers having as a child growing up in Germany. The  recipe is based  on her grandfather's who has a restaurant in Paris and she sent me a list of possible ingredients. I will try to recreate the dish for her.

Continue reading "Couscous by Farid Zadi" »

July 23, 2005

Maghribi Cuisine by Farid Zadi

In my "Algerian Cuisine" post I  broke down influences  into five groups.  The crude breakdown is  a starting point and in no way meant to reduce the complexities and intricacies of Algerian cuisine or  Maghribi cuisine to a static set. History is a living, breathing thing.

1) Berber (Amazigh) food can be described is sustenance cooking.  The Imazighen people were established in North Africa over 3000 years ago. Here is a link to Berber Kingdoms and tribes.  The largest Amazigh tribes are in Algeria and Morocco. But smaller groups are in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as well. The Amazigh culinary genius is in elevating humble ingredients through sophisticated cooking techniques. The most obvious culinary contributions to Maghribi cuisines are couscous, the couscousiere and tagine cooking.

Morocco and Algeria both have Saharan influences. There has been very little written about the culinary contributions of Sub-Saharan North Africans, mostly they were assimiliated into Imazighen/Arab culture.

(In my attempts to introduce and encapsulate elements of North African culture/cuisine, I've kept my posts short. I welcome comments and questions for more in depth 'answers')

July 22, 2005

Algerian cuisine by Farid Zadi

I posted earlier about Wahrani Rai music. Music and food are a part of culture.  And culture cannot be understood without discussing the historical threads that make up the ever-weaving web. I found this article  about the Music of Algeria by Dwight Reynolds, University of California-Santa Barbara.

ALGERIA HOLDS a singular place for Arab culture as a region in which the musical traditions of Islamic Spain, the Ottoman Empire, the eastern Arab countries (the Mashriq), Saharan and West African, Berbers, Bedouin and Europe have all interacted to various degrees. Morocco to the west was never directly exposed to Ottoman and eastern Arab musical traditions; Tunisia and Libya to the east have had far less contact with sub-Saharan and West African musics and far more direct contact with the musics of the their eastern neighbors.

Algerian musical influences can be applied to culinary influences as well. To simplify I'll break it down into five groups.

1) Berber and Saharan.

2) The Arabs.

3) Andalusian or Hispano-Arab, Moors/Moriscos.

4) Ottoman Turks.

5) French colonials.


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