The Recipes And Foods Of Tunisia

Tunisia is the northernmost country on the continent of Africa and along with Morocco and Algeria, Tunisia forms part of the Maghreb region of North Africa and the basis for Tunisian cookery is Maghrebi cuisine. The majority of the population are Arabic and the basis of the cuisine is a mix of Berber and Arabic. However, in comparison with neighbouring countries Tunisian cuisine is notable for its use of hot chillies.

Indeed, the spiced chilli-based mix, harissa is a feature of Tunisian cookery and it's employed both as an addition to most recipes as well as being mixed with olive oil and lemon juice to form a condiment that's served with most meals. The use of seafood is also a notable feature of Tunisian cuisine.

Below, two classic Tunisian recipes are presented:

Tunisian Scented Couscous with Vegetables
For the Couscous:
450g couscous
360ml vegetable stock
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
3cm length ginger, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/8 tsp ground turmeric

For the Vegetables:
2 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed and cooked
1 leek, finely shredded and blanched
1 large tomato, diced
1 large courgette (zucchini), diced
4 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp harissa (or to taste)
oil, for frying

Add the stock o a pan and keep hot on a low flame. Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a pan. When hot stir-in the mustard seeds and fry until they begin to splutter and pop. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper, cardamom, fennel seeds, ginger, cloves and garlic to the oil and stir to combine. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds then add the couscous and stir to coat in the aromatic oil. Stir-in the salt and hot stock, take the pan off the heat and set aside to finish cooking.

As the couscous cooks add oil to a pan. Stir-in the courgette and fry for 3 minutes then add the leek and potatoes and fry for 3 minutes more, or until the courgettes and potatoes begin to turn a golden brown. Add the tomato and tomato purée and harissa along with 60ml water. Bring to a brisk simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, turn onto a serving plate and arrange the vegetables on top. Serve immediately.

Almond and Sesame Pastries

150g sugar
300ml water
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp orange flower water
225g blanched almonds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp (level) finely-grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
120g filo (phyllo) pastry
extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
lightly toasted sesame seeds, to decorate

Combine 120g of the sugar and water in a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking until the mixture is thick and syrupy then take off the heat and stir-in the orange flower water then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining sugar, ground almonds, orange zest and cinnamon in a bowl and knead together to form a paste (the heat from your hands will release oils from the almonds which will aid this process.

When the syrup is cold, take one sheet of filo pastry (keep the remainder covered with a damp cloth) and brush one side with olive oil. Cut the pastry sheet lengthways into 3 strips then add a small tablespoon of the almond filling at the base of each strip. Fold the exposed sides over the filling then roll the pastry up along its entire length. Brush the exposed end with oil then fold over and press down to seal. Brush the pastry all over with oil then set on a greased baking tray.

Repeat the process above with all the remaining pastry and filling. Transfer the baking tray to an oven pre-heated 180°C and bake for between 15 and 20 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.

Whilst the pastries are baking heat the syrup through. When the pastries are done allow to cool until you can handle them then dip each one in the heated syrup then set aside on a plate, sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds and allow to cool completely before serving.

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About The Author, Gwydion
Dyfed Lloyd Evans is the creator of the Celtnet Recipes free recipe site where you can find many traditional Tunisian recipes as part of his North Africa recipes. The site also has a large chilli-based recipes collection.