Week number 3, Algeria
Mahjouba and Chorba Beida
Original meal date 12/17/17
Going into this adventure there were a few little pockets of the world that I was very excited to become more acquainted with in terms of food. Northern Africa was definitely one of them. I can't claim to have known anything about the food of Algeria specifically (or the country itself if I'm being completely honest), but I knew I loved the flavors of Moroccan food. So I was very excited when, three weeks into my global cooking journey, I had the chance to research and cook a meal from Northern Africa. And the meal even turned out pretty well! I made three dishes. The first was Mahjouba, semolina pancakes filled with a tomato and onion mixture and then fried. I also made Chorba Bayda (Chorba Beida, I saw it spelled both ways), a simple but yummy "white" chicken soup that gets it's color from an egg yolk and lemon juice mixture added at the end. For dessert I made Makroud, date filled semolina cookies not completely unlike Fig Newtons. Of course my obvious lack of baking skills came into play pretty hard core again here. However, this time at least my shortcomings were mostly limited to the visuals and the cookies actually tasted pretty good. Success!
Week #3 Algeria
Mahjouba - semolina pancakes filled with tomato and onion and fried
Chorba Bayda - "white" chicken soup with carrots, celery and chickpeas
Makroud - semolina cookies with date filling
Ok, so these little bad boys ended up looking nothing like they are supposed to. However, they were pretty darn tasty! I ordered myself some semolina flour, watched a video of a woman making the pancakes several times (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oct0_3cPy-U), and thought to myself, "well that doesn't look so hard." Oh silly me. Apparently they take a wee bit of practice. I wasn't able to get them anywhere near as thin as they are supposed to be. They are supposed to be thin like crepes and mine ended up a little more like Hot Pockets. But you know what.... the flavor was good and I really enjoyed them. So they may not have been the most authentic in looks or consistency but darn it they were satisfying. I would absolutely make them again.
I ended up kind of loving this soup. It was very simple and straightforward but completely delicious and comforting. Start out with some chicken, onion, carrots and celery and throw in some Moroccan spices and chickpeas. Then right at the end you add a mixture of lemon juice and an egg yolk, this is what gives this "white" soup its beautiful deep golden color. The soup went really well with the Mahjouba, it kind of felt like the Algerian version of soup and a sandwich. Writing about it now is making me really want to make it again! Comforting and delicious.
If you read my last post about Albania, you are familiar with my feelings about baking. But the whole point of this adventure is to push me outside of my comfort zone and to learn so, insecurities be damned, I'm making cookies again. I will not be so bold as to attempt to write my own recipe for the cookies, I simply followed the recipe in the link. I think you should click on the link, go and see how the Makroud are supposed to look, then come back and have a good laugh at mine. Much like the Mahjouba, my Makroud look absolutely nothing like they are supposed to. They are supposed to be sleek and beautiful. Mine ended up kind of awkward and bulky. Although, and this is a big although, they actually tasted pretty darn good! The semolina was crunchy but light and I really enjoyed the combination of flavors in the filling, date and orange blossom. I actually baked something that tasted good, maybe there's hope for me yet!
My sketchbook entry for Algeria
A few fun facts about Algeria:
Throughout Algeria's history it has been occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Germanic tribes, Spaniards, Turks and French. They gained their independence from France in 1962.
90% of Algeria's population lives in about 12% of the country, mostly in the north near the Mediterranean Sea. The majority of land in Algeria is uninhabited Saharan desert.
Algeria has no external debt. They are one of the only countries in the world that doesn't owe money to another country. Despite this many Algerians live in extreme poverty. About 1 in 4 people in Algeria live on less than a dollar a day.
While Algeria has a predominately patriarchal social structure, they are more progressive in their gender politics than many other Islamic States. Women make up 60% of the student population, 60% of the countries judges and 70% of the lawyers. And overall, women in Algeria contribute more to household income than men.
A few famous Algerians:
Albert Camus (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1957)
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997)
Cheb Mami (Best known in the west for singing with Sting on his song, Desert Rose)
This week in our lives:
You may or may not know that I am a dance teacher and choreographer in the real world. Just for fun I thought I'd share a little Christmas dance I choreographed for my advanced tappers the week I made the meal from Algeria. I do not own the rights to the music... just the mad tapping skillz.
Thank you so much for stopping by! Next week is Andorra.