Monday, August 31, 2009
This Algerian street food (and home food) takes time and effort, but is well worth it. It's reminiscent of a flat, spicy egg roll. It can be made with or without the filling. without the filling it has a different name, and is served with a sprinkling of sugar and coffee or hot milk.
During my time in Algeria I sought out this treat every time I was in the city. It is sold mostly in pizzerias and is often sold out. I remember spending whole days in Oran searching. Luckily, my sister in law discovered my obsession and showed me how to make it. Unfortunately, at the time I had no idea that was what she was showing me, as I dont speak more than 20 words of Arabic, and her only five words of English. Only recently my husband finally revealed that I already knew what I longed to learn. So today I dared to attempt it. and with great results!
So here goes....
for the dough
for the filling
harissa or other chile paste (I used korean, as Sambal Oleck, as Harissa is expensive at my market)
I didnt write quantities because it depends on how much you want to make. each kilo (about 2.2 pounds) of semolina should have about a tsp salt. each onion, one tomato. and the chile paste depends on how spicy you want it. always start with a minimal amount, taste, and add more as needed. once you add too much it is too late.
I make the dough straight on a clean dining table. A bowl just gets in the way. To set up you need a large bowl of water, clean hands, and clean table. pour the semolina in a pile on the table. add salt. mix with your hands. Sprinkle water on the flour, about a handful at a time, raking it in with your hands, until the dough begins to stick together. wet your hands and begin to knead the dough. wet your hands every 30 seconds or so. repeat this for at least a half hour, until dough is smooth, moist, soft and extremely elastic. as shown.
After the dough is ready, roll it into cylindars about 2 inches in diameter. cut into one inch pieces and roll each piece into a
ball. cover with foil.
Prepare the filling. Slice the onions as thin as possible, saute in a little oil until soft. Add tomatoes, chile paste, and salt. Simmer until everything is soft. Set aside.
Prepare your work station. lightly oil a cookie sheet or other large flat surface. heat up a lightly oiled griddle or two skillets.
flatten each ball of dough on the oiled surface, as shown, until paper thin. Dont worry much about holes but try to avoid thick areas. the dough should be as flat as possible. you do this by stretching, not rolling. you will need to keep adding oil to the baking sheet if the dough will not stretch. also, i have discovered that the less oil on the tray, the faster it goes, it should be oily, but not a pool of oil.place a small amount of filling in the center,fold the edges over the top. place on the griddle or pan and brown on each side.
serve warm or cool. I made a HUGE batch because its so messy and time consuming, i dont want to have to do it again for a while... luckily, they freeze well, and we can now enjoy a spicy, chewy, toasty, rich taste of Algeria, any time we want.