The North African Kitchen: Regional Recipes and Stories
Written by Fiona Dunlop
Blogpost by: Rania Khalil
Are you stuck in a recipe rut? Do you crave aromatic soul food that can transport you to a place where passion for food transcends borders?
The North African Kitchen invites you into the kitchens of eight of the best home cooks in the region and brings you recipes with a hint of mint, a burst of pomegranate, the sourness of olives, the crunch of almonds, the juices of preserved lemon wild oregano and orange blossom flavors. Fiona Dunlop’s fascination with the region make this book a culinary voyage that invites you to experience the hospitality, history and soul of North African cuisine.
The North African countries of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania have a deep-rooted passion for food, flavor and hospitality. Warm generosity and hospitality are a hallmark of North African culture and history—people of the region have been hosting everyone from merchants to migrants for hundreds of years. When the region was under Ottoman rule, new spices like saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves were introduced. Another culture group that influences North African cuisine are the Amazigh (Berber) who have traded recipes and goods with Arabs for centuries.
Slow cooked tagines, named after the pot in which they are cooked, are Morocco’s undisputed signature dish. The pot, sometimes painted or glazed, is made of heavy clay and consists of two parts; a base unit which is flat and circular, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests on top of the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of condensation to the food at the base of the pot. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving. Tagines—traditionally made with a combination of lamb, vegetables, couscous, dried herbs, fruits and spices—are cooked with both a simplicity and a complexity of flavor that encourages creative cooking and experimentation.
Due to its proximity to Italy, Tunisian tagines reflect more European influence than Moroccan tagines and resemble Italian frittatas. This style of tagine is a hearty and delicious egg-based appetizer that can be served warm or cold. It is a marriage of sweet and sour flavors, with over sixty combinations using meat, vegetables, fish and several unique sauces.
Cuisine in northern Libya is influenced by nearby Tunisia and European cooking styles, particularly Italian dishes, making their food simple and punchy. Unlike Morocco, Libya’s national dish is not tagine, it is Bazin—unleavened bread prepared with barley, water and salt. Seafood dishes are also very common in Libya and are often accompanied by tantalizing soups and desserts. In southern Libya, however, and tagines become more common and reflect the Arab and Amazigh (Berber) influence present in the south.
In The North African Kitchen, Fiona Dunlop takes you on a culinary journey inside the private kitchens of North Africa. You will learn to use spices like garlic, cardamom and coriander—originally arriving in the region from China. The recipes are easy to follow and they reveal unique global influences such as the Tunisian-Jewish version of mezze and French influenced crepes with Seville orange marmalade. Enjoy cooking!