Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 1 in Algeria: Felfel & Bouzgene Berber Flat Bread


**Post Factum:** 
This is one of a series of posts for Vegan MoFo 2010; my theme was a 'Virtual Random Road Trip', where I used random.org's random geographic location generator to select locations around the globe, I then attempted to cook a few dishes from the traditional cuisine of that place. I didn't have a lot of time between generating the locations and coming up with recipes (~ 1 day). So, lacking time to do proper research, I can't vouch for the authenticity of anything I came up with. However, they are what they are, and it was a fun theme. 

I know a lot of people will have read the title quickly and are probably expecting to see "falafel" right about now. But, these are FelFel:  Hot Algerian Peppers Stuffed with Nuts.

A vegan dish from the get-go, the felfel (peppers) are stuffed with a combination of ground pine nuts and walnuts seasoned with some garlic, chives, and salt to taste. The stuffed peppers are then pan fried in olive oil and dressed with fresh lemon juice. Very simple, but exquisitely delicious. This dish can be served as part of a meze or as a side dish.

In searching for recipes, I stumbled upon an online collection by Algerian cookbook author and culinary instructor, Chef Farid Zadi. You can find the stuffed pepper recipe here. If you feel so inclined,  definitely peruse his site...there are a lot of veganizable recipes and information on Algerian cuisine.


The peppers are meant to be hot. In case, you can't find hot Algerian peppers in your grocery store (I couldn't...no surprise there)  Chef Zadi recommends jalapeños in their stead. I used a combination of sweet yellow peppers and jalapeños...that way, it's easy to pick and choose between a little spice or a milder version, according to tastes.

I used the handle of a teaspoon to scrape the seeds out of the peppers. If you press the filling in well with your fingers, the nuts bind and the filling won't fall out while cooking.

Ad Hoc Note: I meant to say this originally, but if anyone is interested in a lower-fat version, I think these would work fine baked in the oven instead of pan fried. I think it would get real tasty in the oven if you added veggie broth to the bottom of the baking dish too, with some nooch! :P


I also tried my hand at some Berber flat bread. This is a traditional bread made with semolina flour, and eaten with sauces or stews in the Northeastern region of the country/along the coast. Semolina wheat was brought to the region in antiquity by the Carthaginians (who came to occupy much of northern Africa). The indigenous Berbers also used this flour to create couscous, which I'm sure many know, is Algeria's national dish.


Making this flat bread is much like making pasta dough. You put the semolina in a bowl, add a tad of olive oil, a bit of salt and then take up the rest with water until it reaches a workable consistency. You then form balls, roll it out and pan fry it in a little olive oil. I followed this recipe and quartered it, which was plenty for two people with some leftover.


The dip/spread is roasted peppers and tomatoes, seasoned with garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt.


I don't know about you, but after these tasty snacks, I'm ready for some exploring.

The capital city of Algiers holds much interest, but one place I'd want to visit if I were there is the Casbah, or the "old city ".  Filled with hundreds of narrow labyrinths and stairways, visitors can see Ottoman architecture and remnants of the old walled citadel, while experiencing the life and culture of this still densely populated district.

To get an idea of some of the sights and the atmosphere of the Algiers Casbah district, check out Carine Iriarte's gallery of photos taken there. Here are a few samples of what you'll see:



Kechaoua Mosque

You can read more about the Casbah of Algiers here: http://www.algeria.com/sights/algiers-casbah/

To begin a read on the much-needed restoration of this district, maybe start here.

Back soon with more North African delights from Algeria.

37 comments:

  1. Is this the same Casbah that The Clash wants us to rock?

    Looks like so much fun researching all this. Those little stuffed peppers sound good, too - a much better stuffing for jalapenos than cheese (and deep fried). Peppers and nuts, who would have thought?

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  2. The flat bread looks great. I am wishing I had it for lunch.

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  3. Looks great! What a fun game! Those peppers are so rich in color.

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  4. The little peppers are so beautiful — I think I'd have to search out a plate worthy of holding them. (I like yours!) And the flat bread looks great. You are really working your mofo theme full tilt. Love it.

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  5. Wow, that look so awesome! I love hot, spicy food, and this would fit the bill, for sure. Coincidentally, and strangely, I'm writing a children's book (struggling author, here) that's partially based in Algeria! I know. Crazy. Anyhow, I thank you for the tip on the food site - that will help a lot. Yum yum!

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  6. Rose, you're awesome! Wonderful flatbread! The peppers look superb too. Mmmm, nut stuffing...and that wonderful tomato-pepper salsa-thing. I agree wholeheartedly with HayMarket8, what a fun game!

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  7. What a beautiful dinner. I wish you could cook for me!

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  8. I visited Algeria for MoFo as well and I love the recipe you chose! I also used Chef Zadi's fantastic website :D

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  9. Jessica

    You totally crack me up :D...yes, we definitely have to Rock the Casbah!

    The nuts are really yummy in the peppers: rich and savory. :)

    omgoshimvegan

    The flat bread is good; really crunchy crispy! I think it would make great pre-made pizza crust too.

    Vic

    I was a little apprehensive...but the theme it's turning out kind of fun.

    Andrea

    Oh man, when I saw the pepper recipe, I had to make it because it sounded so savory yummy! I wanted to serve these on a little platter, but in the end, I hunted that plate out of the cupboard... I like the little dots of it. :)

    BlessedMama

    You're writing a children's book? That is some seriously awesome news! I'm sure it will be fantab! Ooh and partly set in Algeria, very intriguing! I love children's books and though I don't have any kids, I buy them regularly...when yours is published...I'll be in the Q to buy one for sure!

    Zoa

    I'm terrible with compliments, but thank you! Means a lot coming from you...I have loved your blog ever since I found it (last MoFo). Glad you're having fun!

    Melody

    Again, something like that is truly nice coming from a wonderful chef like yourself...I often think the same thing when I see your wonderful food!! :)

    Mandee

    I checked out your Algeria post...great selections too! I really think Chef Fadi's site is so informative and and trustworthy too! I love your EAT the World theme!

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  10. Stuffed peppers?! yum! they remind me of a chili relleno but more spicy. The boyfriend can't really eat spice but I am all for it. I might have to make a small batch of these for myself

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  11. ok, i didnt have high hopes for Algeria, you completely proved me wrong (times ten) this food looks like i know it tastes. my husband was in the room with me and i showed him, he thinks it looks good also:) go Algeria and Rose!!

    ps i havent even finished reading the whole post, i was jsut really excited about how great all this looked! i havent even gotten to the bread part!!!

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  12. That meal looks delicious! Thank you for sharing your adventures in Algeria.

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  13. UH MAY ZING!
    You totally rock you know that right?

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  14. Wow, what a (yet another) fantastically fun post!

    Those colorful stuffed peppers were a happy surprise (well, almost any Algerian food was going to surprise me since I had almost no idea what to expect!), and BW is going to be all over that dish! That Texas boy loves him some peppers, and it'll be a perfect meal for us since he likes his peppers hot and I like them mild (we're like the Jack Spratt and his wife of capsaicin). ;-) Thanks for the tip about baking them in veggie broth with nooch, that sounds delicious!

    I'm always up for exploring, so I've really been enjoying the photos and web sites you shared. That mosque is extraordinarily beautiful. And the Casbah, whose name sounds so exotic and ancient, lives up to to all of that. (Jessica's comment made me grin, and that song title brought back some fun memories! Can't get that tune out of my head now, though! lol)

    I love your pretty plate with the blue dots too, along with that wonderful geranium-containing planter behind it, which would look right at home on the steps in one of those intriguing Casbah alleys! Did you notice how well your plate and planter coordinate with the tiles in your next photo? Of course you did, because you are - as all of us have noted repeatedly and rightfully - awesomely amazing! :-)

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  15. P.S. I just read a couple of the articles about the horrible deterioration of the Casbah, and sure hope they can find the $ and the will to restore and preserve it (and are successful in saving that beautiful mosque!) What a shame so much of it has disintegrated and gotten squalid. (I still think your handsome planter would look at home there, but only in a nice location worthy of it! Perhaps it should just stay on your pretty patio.) :-)

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  16. Algerian Poppers! I'll bet they'd be great with some Tahini dressing. Most impressive as always.

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  17. Wow! Gorgeous! I can't wait to try these out. I love the cuisine of this region, but I've never had this dish. Thank you for including cultural tidbits as well. I've studied some of the dances from some of the tribes of this region and the culture is an important part of it, just as it is with the food.

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  18. Wow those peppers are beautiul and that flat bread sounds awesome! Great job!!!!

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  19. Jacklyn

    I love chili relleno and these are really yummy too. You can use a combo of sweet and hot peppers, the yellow ones in the photo are sweet, so you and your boyfriend could both enjoy.

    Dirty Duck Michelle

    Glad you and stomper liked the look of them...there is much deliciousness in Algeria I'm finding. I actually dated a guy from Algeria when I was in college and he was a really good cook. :)

    Thanks VegSpinz & Jeni Treehugger

    You guys rock too!

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  20. Laurie

    LOL about you being the Jack Spratts of the capsicum world! Of course, when you said that I had to try and make up a version of the rhyme about you and BW, but I gave up when I started trying to rhyme 'peppers' with 'leftovers'. You should give it a go...you're a wordsmith par excellence!

    I got the song stuck in my head too when I read Jessica's comment, total LOL.

    The planter was a happy coincidence; it usually sits out my back garden, and I wouldn't have thought to use it in the photo, except that I brought a bunch of plants in to live in the sun porch for the winter and that was one of them.

    I also hope they can conserve the district, and most importantly improve the conditions for the people who live there...it sounds like it was a truly wonderful place, I hope it can return to that. Must be heartbreaking for the older people to have seen it change so much.

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  21. Shen

    Algerian Poppers! You know that name could really stick! Excellent. Your idea about tahini sauce is a stroke of genius, that would be really tasty.

    Candy Beans

    Studying the dance sounds really interesting. I love this cuisine too. I think you'll like the peppers. :)


    Thanks Michelle ! :)

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  22. Rose ~ I agree, the conditions there sound bad enough for most of its residents, but to have lived there when it was wonderful and now have to live there when it's like this must be heartbreaking indeed. I found this site from UNESCO, about the Casbah's status as a world cultural heritage site. Makes you wonder why more hasn't been done to "rock the Casbah," or at least rescue it!

    (That blasted song is STILL in my head! LOL)

    I never thought to try my hand at a capsaicin version of the Jack Spratt poem! You're too lavish with your praise, but thank you - now how could I not at least try to live up to that? So here goes...

    BW liked his peppers hot,
    Laloo preferred hers warm.
    And so between the two of them,
    they bought a pepper farm.

    With rows of green and gold and red,
    they grew their peppers well.
    But it's hard work and so instead
    They went to Rose's for Felfel.


    :-D

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  23. Laurie

    I knew you could whip something brilliant up in a flash! That is excellent! Thank you!

    I think I'll have to print this out and frame it, I'll draw little dancing peppers around it.

    Thanks for the link to the UNESCO site, I'll have a look at it soon!

    Thanks for brightening up my day! :)

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  24. I have to try those flatbreads. I have a bunch of semolina flour leftover from my last homemade pasta attempt, which was a lot of work for only a so-so payoff. These look like a great option! Thanks! And the rest of it looks amazing too!

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  25. I was indeed expecting to see falafel. :) Was your mouth on fire? I think I'd have to use bell peppers. Maybe I could cut them and roll them slightly to look pretty like yours.

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  26. i didnt know that cous cous was from Algeria. this one(ALgeria) totally got me! i love love love cous cous!! and this bread looks so great.warm and buttery. this is def a winner Rose!!i love food stuffed with more food:)


    oh you follow Tabitha! did i see her here or did you see her on mine?? i have been trying to remember where i found her!!

    i got your comment Rose.:)thank you. i kinda tried to explain and thank you in a comment back.

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  27. This is so beautiful and I loved the post in general

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  28. I am so jealous of that meal! I want some! I love flat bread and those pepper look awesome too!

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  29. I'm glad my little pepper ditty brightened your day, Rose! :-) I'd love to see your drawing of little dancing peppers sometime, that would definitely be a day-brightener too! Happy Friday!

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  30. Stacy

    The flat bread comes out really crispy and olive oily...nice. I think they would make good pizza crust too.

    Jenny

    Surprisingly, the jalapenos weren't especially hot; it could have been a mild batch. The red and yellow peppers are sweet; this is equally good with sweet or hot peppers.

    Michelle

    I suppose it's difficult to know exactly what modern country can claim couscous, because ages ago they were all different kingdoms and stuff, but yes it comes from the general region of Morrocco, Tunisia and Algeria...it is also a trademark dish in those countries, I assume.

    Anyway, I found Tabitha on your blog.

    :)

    Thank you CarribeanVegan :)

    Carissa

    LOL, don't be jealous, you can always make some too. :)

    Laloofah

    Happy Friday to you...still haven't drawn the peppers, but when I do I'll let you know. :)

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  31. oh maybe i jsut found her while i was looking at "interests" you know how you can do that on the profile page..yea tht must be it! thanks for answering my questions/comments

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  32. GORGEOUS! That flatbread looks amazing!

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  33. wow, your flat bread looks totally glorious... and the stuffed peppers do too. I'm gonna bookmark that site. The food and the pictures look so much like morocco, which I loved. I think I would probably love all of N.Africa... so much vegan friendly food and so many beautiful sights to see. Great post!

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  34. Amey

    Thanks for all your fun and enthusiastic comments. Morocco sounds wonderful...I would love to go to N. Africa someday. I think their foods are really so delicious and elegant in the flavor profiles and beautiful base ingredients.

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  35. thanks for trying my recipe. i'm glad you liked it. and yeah, a lot of algerian recipes can be made vegetarian or vegan.

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  36. Chef Zadi

    Thank you so much for the wonderful recipes. Your website was a wonderful resource. This post was part of a theme I did in honor of the Vegan MOnth of Food in 2010; a virtual trip around the world...I think the recipes and food from Algeria were my favorites.

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  37. how to make this small bread , it looks nice

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