Citizens, Algeria is home to a number of unique and delicious recipes that include this delicious soup which is beloved across the Maghreb!
Berkoukesis a traditional Berber dish, using prepared very large-grained couscous, meat and seasonal vegetables. The berkoukes grains are made from semolina durum wheat, and are rolled by hand in a large dish (traditionally wood or earth, but most commonly in nowadays metal).
The berkoukes recipe is found across North Africa, an heir to an older recipe found in a medical directory described by the medieval Arab physician and philosopher Avicenna (Ibn Razin Tujibi). A variation of this dish incorporating fenugreek, “berkoukes bi za’ter”, is in fact still used in traditional medicine to treat stunted children or infectious fever.
As noted on thetealtadjine.blogspot.com:
Berkoukes also called Aïche or M’hamessa or Abazine in some regions – is a hand-rolled semolina based pasta that is shaped like a little ball, but it is also an Algerian dish. Berboukes is the larger balls, while M’hamsa is the smaller balls. It is consumed traditionally in Algeria or the North East of Morocco during the winter and mainly in January to celebrate the wealth of the Algerian harvest of beans and dried fruit and meats. It is a dish of rich wealth, comfort and generousity.
My version of this ancient recipe is a soup as opposed to a stew – it is spicy, laden with garlic and would assuredly find favor with that most fabled of ancient physicians who first described it!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
200 g of lamb stew meat, cut into small pieces
50 g of well-spiced salami, diced small
2 tomatoes, preferably heirloom
1 stalk of celery, de-stringed and with leafy top
6 cloves garlic, minced
100g of chickpeas (soaked overnight)
1 tablespoon red sweet paprika
1 teaspoon harissa (spicy Tunisian paste)
1 teaspoon caraway powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 bunch coriander, chopped
250g Berkoukes (petits plombs in French) – it looks like couscous, but much larger), and is sold in Arabic grocery stores. Failing that, use pearl pasta or acini di pepe
2 liters of fresh meat stock (preferred) or use water
Olive oil for drizzling
Wash and rinse the vegetables, then peel the onion, turnip, potato and carrot.
Cut all the vegetables into small, same-sized dice.
In a blender mix the tomatoes to a puree.
In a cooking pot add the sunflower oil , the chopped onion, the garlic, the celery, half of the chopped coriander, the salami and the lamb.
Add the salt, the black pepper, the red paprika, the harissa, the cumin and the caraway powder.
Start to cook slowly on a medium heat.
With a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients together and cook for 5 minutes.
Pour the chickpeas, the potato, the carrot and the zucchini into the cooking pot.
Pour 2 liters of meat stock or water and the tomato coulis into the pan and cook for 30 minutes over medium heat.
After 30 minutes, pour the Berkoukes (pearl pasta) and cook for another 30 minutes on low heat.
From time to time stir with the wooden spoon (pasta should not stick on the pot).
Remove from the stove and add the rest of the coriander plus a drizzle of good olive oil. Serve at once.
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