Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
The World Cup is hotting up now and with only a few hours to Algeria’s first game it seems appropriate to be writing about it now. 1982 was its debut in the World Cup, you know the one I keep harping on about was my first one; but it was a great World Cup. Algeria made a sensational impact in the first game by beating West Germany 2-1; but the group ended with real controversy and outrage by many. Both West Germany and Austria knew that if the Germans won by 1 or 2 goals then both teams would go through, ousting Algeria. If West Germany won by more than two goals, it and Algeria would go through. West Germany scored early on and then both teams just kicked the ball around with no intention of attacking. The result remained and Algeria was on its way home. This display of unsportsman-like behaviour was condemned by the world of football, including West German and Austrian fans. After this it was decided that all final games in each group be played simultaneously.
Algeria is up against the much fancied Belgium first off and will be tested to the max. Algeria does have quite an all-action tenacious style and could well prove stiff opposition. The central cog in the team is midfielder Saphir Sliti Taïder who will be looking to release the three attack minded players Sofiane Feghouli, El Arbi Hillel Soudani and Islam Slimani. It would be great if Algeria could make the second round for the first time in their history, and put a little of 1982 to rest.
When I think of North African cuisine I think of the aromatic fragrances of caraway, cumin, coriander and saffron intermingled with cinnamon, parsley, chilli and nutmeg. The cuisine of Algeria epitomises the culinary magic of this part of the world; characterised by its European and Arabic influence. It is believed that salads, soups and some desserts were from the European influence whereas the foods barrāniyya, couscous, and skewered meat and vegetables were inherited from the Arabs, Berbers, and Turks.
Shakhshūkha is a classic Algerian dish said to have derived from the Turkish dish şakşuka, and is my chosen dish for Algeria. It has cumin, coriander, thyme, parsley and a hint of hot cayenne in a tomato and red and yellow pepper (capsicum) sauce. The highlight though is the baked eggs within; cooked until just set giving the shakhshūkha a gorgeous and unctuous finish. I have completed the dish with a sprinkling of fresh coriander and feta, which is strictly not Algerian, but does complement it wonderfully.
Shakhshūkha - AlgeriaPrint
- ■ 1½ tsp. cumin seeds |
- ■ 150ml olive oil |
- ■ 2 onions | Peeled and sliced.
- ■ 2 red peppers (capsicum) | Cored, deseeded and sliced in to thin strips.
- ■ 2 yellow peppers (capsicum) | Cored, deseeded and sliced in to thin strips.
- ■ 4 tsp. dark muscovado sugar |
- ■ 2 fresh bay leaves |
- ■ 6 sprigs thyme | Leaves only.
- ■ handful flat leaf parsley | Well washed and chopped.
- ■ bunch coriander | Well washed and chopped.
- ■ 800g ripe tomatoes | Diced.
- ■ pinch saffron strands |
- ■ ¼ tsp. hot cayenne pepper |
- ■ seasoning of sea salt and black pepper |
- ■ as required hot water |
- ■ 8 free range eggs |
- ■ 120g feta cheese |
Heat a large heavy based pan on a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast for a few seconds until fragrant and slightly browned. Add the olive oil and onions and sauté for about 2-3 minutes to achieve a little browning. Add the red peppers, yellow peppers, muscovado sugar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and ¾ of the coriander. Turn the heat to high and cook the peppers and onions until they attain a nice colour – about 3 minutes or so.
Add the tomatoes, saffron strands, Cayenne pepper and seasoning and bring to the boil whilst stirring. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20-22 minutes. If at any point the sauce looks dry add a little hot water to moisten. The consistency should be similar to a pasta sauce.
Create 8 evenly spread gaps in the sauce and break an egg in to each. Cover the pan and over low heat gently cook until the eggs have just set. This can take anywhere between 8 and 12 minutes.
When the eggs are cooked crumble over the feta cheese and sprinkle on the remaining coriander. Serve in the middle of a table in the pan with crusty white bread.
The sauce can be prepared in advance; prior to adding the eggs.