IDP#28 Algeria – Cold yoghurt soup, and links to Serbia and Mongolia?

Algerian Dinner

Saturday, 28 July 2012

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Entree:
Pita Bread ( الخبز العربي )
Dates ( مجدول ), Prunes ( الخوخ ), Almonds ( لوز )
Cold Cucumber Yoghurt Soup (Khyar bil laban – خيار زبادي)
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I was so busy cooking the flatbread I forgot to take a photo of the pita/date/prune/almond platter – but then again, I think we all know what dates and prunes look like anyway!

So, Ryan almost chose Kazahkstan, but settled on Algeria, two very similar North African/Middle Eastern countries in a row, the trick will be getting some variation I guess. I think pita bread is a must, but I changed it up with the fruit rather than dips this time. The boys weren’t too keen on the dates, the prunes they thought were so-so, and Sam loves almonds. Pita bread, as with all breads was a hit with the boys (as it was last week) and well the cold soup was refreshingly nice and pretty much identical to the Cucumber Yoghurt dip we had for Egypt ingredients-wise, just more liquid, and well, soupier… more liquid. The boys were not keen, as a soup I liked it.

Sam’s Rating: Infinity/Infinity (That’s the pita bread, the prunes 5/10, raisins 10/10, almonds 10/10)
Ryan’s Rating: Infinity/Infinity

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Entree:
Saffron and Raisin Couscous ( مجدول )
Sweet Lamb with Prunes ( Lham Lahlou – خروف الحلو )
Algerian Flat Bread (Rakhssess – 
رخساس )
Limonada ( عصير الليمون )
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Couscous is the national dish of Algeria, with the Berbers purportedly the first to create it, so it definitely had to be included in our meal – we normally have it plain, or sometimes with  a soy/chilli sauce that I make, and while I like it, the kids “tolerate” it. Sam and Ryan are starting to take a liking to it though, so this Saffron and Raisin Couscous will be something familiar, but a little different for them – as an added bonus for me, couscous is simple to make. This one involved soaking the saffron in the boiled water for half and hour, then reheating and adding the couscous, sultanas and salt, and letting it stand for another 30 minutes – which gave me time to concentrate on cooking the flat bread.

Now, the flat bread is where my title comment about Mongolia came in, this bread is made almost identical to the Mongolian Bing Bread – the dough ingredients and the act of rolling then rolling to a spiral and flattening out again. The filling spices were quite different though – turmeric, cumin and paprika… I love a bread that’s cooked in 4 minutes! And so do the boys – gone in 60 seconds literally! You can see from the photo – I couldn’t snap Ryan fast enough – he was into the bread straight away!
ANother easy one for me – the Sweet Lamb, simply spice the lamb, boil away for an hour, add prunes and raisins and sweeteners and build away for another hour or so – a rather hands off meal to make. Now, although the lamb we bought was not top quality, (it was casserole lamb) – once it’s been stewed for that long it just melts in your mouth – so got rave reviews from our guests, the boys’ Aunt and Uncle. The couscous was just slightly savoury so complimented the lamb’s sweetness nicely. This dish is served during Ramadan as a special meal to break the daylong fast.
The boys ate the couscous, but were a little more reticent on the lamb (I should have just called it chicken!), Sam did eat his though, Ryan, not so much.

Apart from the bread, the boys’ favorite was definitely the Limonada – although Sam’s face after the first sip was classic “It’s a little sour!” It wasn’t really, but it wasn’t what they’re used to which is “sprite sweet” which isn’t sour at all….  so I just topped the freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar syrup up with a bit more soda water, and that diluted it down enough for Sam and Ryan, so much so, that they ordered seconds! It was definitely refreshing and the added mint and flower water added a whole new dimension to it – I absolutely prefer it to normal lemonade, but juicing 10 lemonades every time I want a lemonade might be a bit too much, might make some more when summer rolls around though – would be great at kiwi barbecues!

SAFFRON AND RAISIN COUSCOUS:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: 9/10
SWEET LAMB WITH PRUNES:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: 0/10
 ———————————————————————————————-
ALGERIAN FLAT BREAD:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: Infinity/Infinity
LIMONADA:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: Infinity/Infinity
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Dessert:
Almond Cookies ( Makroud el Louse )
Almond stuffed Dates and Walnuts
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And  the dessert is where the link to Serbia comes in, these Almond cookies, apart from shape were almost identical to the Serbian Almond Crescent Cookies we made with some regional differences, namely the orange blossom water. The Almond Cookies, made solely from Almonds, Sugar and Eggs (no flour at all), cooked and then dipped in a flower water flavored sugar syrup and then rolled in confectioner’s sugar, extremely similar to the Serbian variant, and these countries aren’t all that close, although Algeria does have a lot of Greek and French influences being on the Meditteranean Coast. Honestly, the major difference was that these were cut diamond-shaped and the Serbian ones are crescent shaped, there was also no vanilla in these, flower water was the Algerian flavoring.
Now the dates and walnuts dessert I chose because it looked interesting and might convince the boys to try dates.. it was simply a paste made of almonds, pistachio and orange blossom water, filling the almonds and sticking to walnut halves together, I even tried to upsell the walnuts by calling them brains – which worked on Sam!
The deal was if he wanted more of the almond cookies then he had to have a “brain”, Ryan wasn’t as easily convinced, had had some cookies, but was pretty full, and tired.
MAKROUD EL LOUSE:
Sam’s rating: 10/10
Ryan’s rating: 10/100
STUFFED MAHDJOUL DATES:
Sam’s rating: Didn’t try them
Ryan’s rating: Didn’t try them
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ALMOND STUFFED WALNUT “BRAINS”:
Sam’s rating: 2/10
Ryan’s rating: Didn’t try them

All in all a very good meal – and I think I’ll be cooking the sweet lamb again – it was great. The boys enjoyed themselves, and love the nibbles at the beginning of each meal. And I may try spicing our couscous in future as well, as it was a nice change.

Skinning the blanched almonds was probably my least favorite part, and there were a lot more blanched almonds to peel for Algeria than there were for Egypt, but we were quicker and had the child labor workforce eager and onhand…

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3 thoughts on “IDP#28 Algeria – Cold yoghurt soup, and links to Serbia and Mongolia?

  1. I am so going to have to get down for one of these dinners, they look and sound such fun …. the preparation and the eating. Thank you so much for taking us all on this incredible adventure

  2. Sounds like a winning dinner. The scales are through the roof!

    I’ve made a similar bread before. Instead of making a cylindar, you roll the bread flast, then cut along the radius, then roll up into a cone. Roll out again and again. It’s this shaping that gives the bread a lovely layering and lightness. I think it was a Chinese recipe that I used. I guess when a technique is good, it appears in many cuisines.

    • Sounds likely it was Chinese, mongolia is only a hop and a skip away. Yes it does give you a great layering of the pastry, making it quite light and flakey almost. Interesting the cone technique, hadn’t heard of that one… amazing how these techniques were passed on centuries/millenia ago and still survive in different cultures today..

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