Thursday, May 26, 2011

Algeria: high school revisited

My first experience with Algeria came though my senior paper in high school. We were supposed to draw a developing country out of a hat and write about 60-90 pages about the art, literature, culture, history, and music. Food, unfortunately, didn't really come into it except when we presented our papers to the class (for which I made apple cinnamon couscous). The first country I drew was Nauru, but when I told my teacher they didn't have a written language (which would make a literary analysis of a novel problematic) and weren't going to have an economy within the next ten years (they were dependent on phosphates from guano, which was about to be used up), he let me choose another. And I ended up with Algeria. My overall impression of Algeria, from writing these 90 pages, was that it was a lot like Morocco, but less friendly. Influenced by the French, but undergoing Arabization. This was supported by the recipes I looked at. Instead of the flatbread that's typical in the Maghreb, urbanites usually eat baguettes with their meals. Lentils, couscous, and lamb were all common ingredients. Stews (called tagines in Morocco) were common as well. Dishes could be spicy, and cumin and lemon were common seasonings. Luckily, the food was much friendlier than the culture seemed to be.

Craving something reasonably healthy and low-fat, I picked a lentil/orzo/lamb (or in this case beef) stew and a carrot salad. I invited my friend Katie to eat with me, and she brought a baguette. Of course, when you put a [single at the time] food blogger and a dating blogger together, they eat a lot and talk about guys. We got a little distracted by the conversation and forgot to take pictures of the finished products! So you'll have to imagine what a carrot salad looks like, as well as a loaf of bread. It was all pretty tasty. I've had stews I liked better, so I may not make this one again, but I'll be perfectly happy eating all the leftovers. And it was filling and reasonably nutritious. Katie said the carrot salad was like crack - she was a big fan!

Algerian Cooked Carrot Salad

1 lb carrots
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 pinch salt
1 pinch sugar
lemon juice (preferably fresh)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
fresh chopped parsley

Peel the carrots and slice into small-ish chunks. Boil water with the garlic, salt, and sugar, and cook carrots until crisp-tender. Drain and chill. Just before serving, toss with lemon juice, pepper, and cumin. Garnish with parsley.

Orzo, Lamb, and Lentil Soup

1 lb lamb (or beef) cut into chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
7 cups beef broth
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup orzo

Brown the beef on all sides in the olive oil, seasoning with plenty of salt and pepper. Add half the beef broth and simmer slowly for at least 30 minutes (but seriously, it'll be way more tender the longer you go. I'd recommend 3 hours. And I do mean a slow simmer. Boiling will make the beef tough). Add the lentils and the rest of the broth; continue to simmer. Saute the vegetables and garlic with the spices in the butter. Add those and the orzo and simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve with bread.

1 comment:

  1. That carrot salad does sound delish...and easy enough that I can make it without screwing it up (probably!)