Monday, February 16, 2009

Can I get some harissa with that?

I decided that instead of just telling you about all the wonderful food i'm eating that I'd share some of the recipes I've been picking up! Here are a few of my favorite meals I've had on the trip so far.


*WARNING: Lablabi looks like cafeteria food gone bad when finished. It tastes, however, like yummy goodness. Do not let the appearance sway you from eating it, I assure you it's delicious!*

A note about harissa: harissa CAN be found in the states in specialty food sections of luxury grocery stores. Apparently Crate and Barrel and Williams Sonoma also have excellent varieties.

Ingredients (serves four):
2 cups dried or canned chickpeas (cups/tbsp are all rough estimates)
2 baguettes
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp harissa (or more if you like spicy foods. I'd recommend doubling that.)
1/2 tbsp cumin
pinch of salt to taste
1/2 a lemon (or equivalent amount of lemon juice)
3 tbsp olive oil
4 poached or soft boiled eggs

1. Wash chickpeas and soak overnight (this is if you're using dried chickpeas like we do here. If you've bought them in a can, skip this step.)
2. In a large pot, cover chickpeas with water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes or until chickpeas are tender. (And again, if using canned chickpeas, drain them, rinse them and heat them up in about 4 cups of water).
3. Break each baguette in half and break up each half into little pieces. Divide the broken up break evenly among four bowls.
4. Add garlic, harissa, cumin and salt to chickpeas and water. Simmer for 10 minutes. 
5. Immediately add olive oil and lemon juice before serving. Pour soup over broken up bread.
6. Here's the tricky part. When I've seen lablabi made in restaurants here, the cooks break a raw egg over a steaming bowl of lablabi and the egg cooks on its own. I know that sounds a little sketchy so if you'd rather, my host mom recommends poaching or soft boiling the eggs and putting one egg on top of each bowl.
7. Mix it all up and enjoy!


Tunisian couscous is much spicier than other versions of couscous found in the Maghreb (North African) region. Try a little harissa before you decide how much to put in and remember that you can always add more, but it's a little harder to take it out. 

Ingredients (makes 4 cups):
2 cups uncooked couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, cubed
1 large green pepper, cubed (We use a mild green pepper different from those found in the U.S. here but I don't know the name of it. Regular green peppers should make a fine substitute.)
1 large zucchini, cubed
2 potatoes
2 carrots
2 cups chickpeas, canned or dried (if dried, soak them overnight)
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 to 1 1/2 tbsps harissa
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup tomato sauce
pinch of salt, to taste

1. Saute the onions and the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add tomato paste, chickpeas, and cup of water. Boil for 15 minutes.
3. Cut up veggies, add them the pot and bring back to a boil. Add spices as well. Cook for 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are cooked well.
4. Prepare couscous as directed, except when adding water, substitute a cup of tomato sauce for a cup of water. For instance if your couscous box says to add 2 cups of water, add a cup of water and a cup of tomato sauce.
5. Pour veggies and sauce over couscous and enjoy!

Note: This type of veggie couscous is used as a base for all couscous recipes. I have eaten it like this but I have also added chicken (rotisserie style), fish, and lamb. Feel free to experiment.

One more recipe...this one is a good appetizer for either of the other two recipes!

BRIK (pronounced breek)

Ingredients (makes 4):
1 6 oz can of tuna
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
4 eggroll or wonton wrappers (this is a substitute. The dough used for briks here is a lot like a wonton wrapper only it's much larger. Usually briks are folded over into a triangle but if that is impossible given the size of the wrappers, I'd put one on top of the other and make a sort of pillow.)
4 eggs
Olive oil for frying
4 lemon wedges or lemon juice

1. Mix together tuna, parsley, cheese, salt and pepper.
2. Spoon about a quarter of the mixture onto one half of the wonton wrappers (if you think they are big enough to fold over after you add the egg too. Otherwise just put it in the middle.)
3. Make a dent in the tuna/parsley/cheese mixture to hold most of the egg in place and break the egg into the nice little holding place you've created for it. 
4. Fold the wrapper in half into a triangle shape (if it's big enough) or put another wrapper on top to form a "pillow." Seal the sides.
5. Fry in about a half inch of olive oil until the briks are golden on one side then flip. Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice and serve!

*WARNING: Briks can be a challenge to eat without the egg yolk trickling down your chin. I've had lots of practice, but don't worry if it happens. It's a learning curve!*

Ok so try some of these out and let me know what you think! Enjoy!


  1. The lablabi sounds like it could be pretty good, and the couscous with meat has a lot of potential, but the brik... tuna seriously? Gross :P haha

    So not only will you probably publish a Tunisian travel guide, but also more than likely a Tunisian cookbook :) Thats money in the bank ;)

  2. These sound great. Your sister will appreciate the change from our usual fare (pasta four nights a week, or so she claims. I think she exaggerates).

  3. It occurred to me that, with this post you have indeed blogged about couscous, carthage AND camels. Its like you knew . . .

  4. I can't wait to try these. It's also a great excuse to go shopping for new spices. I love William-Sonoma.