Brochettes (Algerian Kebabs) – Choice of: Chicken, Lamb, or Beef

Algeria is located in northern Africa, between Morocco and Tunisia, and is almost entirely a desert. Algerian cuisine has many influences including the introduction of semolina wheat by the Carthaginians in the first century BC, from which the Berbers created couscous. The Roman occupation provided cultivation of other grains, while the Arabs brought spices from Asia in the 7th Century. The Spanish brought olives, oranges, and plumbs in the 16th Century, while the Turks brought sweet pastries a little later. Lastly, the French brought the baguette at the beginning of the 19th Century, but surprisingly traditional French culinary techniques such as sauces (the French have 5 “mother” sauces) failed to have a lasting impact possibly due to its climate. The French were the last foreigner to rule the country with its independence in 1962. Whoa, that was a lot of invaders! Well, this rich history has resulted in a cuisine that is simple, but boldly flavored.

Algerian cuisine is most often associated with tagines and couscous. A Tagine is a large clay cooking vessel with a top that looks like a witch’s hat. The shape of the vessel allows the steam to condense on the walls of the lid and go back into the food, which is essential in a desert climate where water is scarce. Couscous is another staple food, which is not a grain, but rather tiny little balls made from steaming semolina flour (yes, pasta!). Since the tagine is a cooking vessel that is not ubiquitous in the american household (although every Williams Sonoma carries them…..), we are sticking to kabobs with this meal. However, all these ingredients could easily be cooked in a tagine.

Algerians also eat with the their hands, like many African countries, but only the right. The left hand is considered unclean, but we won’t go into why. Furthermore, only three of the fingers on the right hand is used to pick up the food, any more appears gluttonous and is considered rude.

The Brochettes will be marinated overnight in Labneh, which is a mediterranean yogurt (a little sour) along with lemon juice, mint, and Ras el Hanout. Ras el Hanout is a spice blend widely used in North Africa which consists of 27 different species include cumin, ginger, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, anise, fennel, cloves, saffron coriander, caraway, mace, fenugreek, and black pepper among others.

The chicken, lamb or beef will then either be grilled or cooked under the broiler. The yogurt and the meat will char slightly providing both texture and a unique North African flavor profile.

While most often served with french bread, our brochettes will be served with Kesra, which is Algerian flatbread similar to a large pita. The brochettes is to be eaten with the additional yogurt sauce (name?), chopped tomatoes, parsely, and mint.