Algeria should really be a contender for the World Cup, having produced some of the most successful players in recent years: Zinedine Zidane, Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri. Unfortunately, they all play or played for France, the country to which their parents escaped to from the poverty and violence of Algeria.
One of the most haunting descriptions of modern Algeria is Algerian White, by Assia Djebar.This semi-autobiographical novel traces the lives of three Algerian writers to their premature deaths. In a range of remembered and imagined conversations she creates a harrowing account of the senseless violence that has silenced them. Djebar is a poet, and her poetic voice makes the novel so compelling, allowing her to create a portrait of a country murdering its own people.
As I was given a tagine by my neighbour, I had to find a recipe that could be cooked in it. Louisa’s blog La Cuisine de Louisa had this lovely recipe. a lamb stew, flavoured with cumin, which is often made on special occasions. Surely Algeria taking part in the World Cup is such an occasion!
Chtitha Lham – Lamb in a Red Sauce (serves 4-6)
- 1 kg of lamb, in small cubes
- 2 onions, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp butter
- thyme and rosemary
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1tbs concentrated tomato purée
- 1 tsp of harissa
- salt and ground black pepper
- 1 tomato, peeled, finely cut
- 1 handful of dried chickpeas, soaked on the evening before, or 1 tin
In a casserole dish or – if you’re lucky, a tagine, melt the butter with the oil, then add the meat and brown it thoroughly from on all side. Add the onions and garlic and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes over low heat.
Add the herbs, cumin, concentrated tomato purée. If you are using dried chickpeas that you have soaked overnight, add them now, together with thyme and rosemary, cumin, tomato purée, salt and pepper. Alllow the meat to soak up all these flavours for around 10 minutes.
Cover with boiling water, then add the tomato and harissa. Cover and let it simmer for about 1 hour over medium hea; if you are using tinned chickpeas, add them at around half time. The dish is ready when the meat is very tender and the sauce slightly thickened. Garnish with parsley leaves and sliced lemons and serve with rice.