Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Walima May Challenge - Representing the Turkish Cuisine

Geography
Turkey is at the northeast end of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. To the north is the Black Sea and to the west is the Aegean Sea. Its neighbours are Greece and Bulgaria to the west, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to the north and northwest (through the Black Sea), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. The Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus divide the country. Turkey in Europe comprises an area about equal to the state of Massachusetts. Turkey in Asia is about the size of Texas. Its center is a treeless plateau rimmed by mountains.


Government
Republican parliamentary democracy.

History
Anatolia (Turkey in Asia) was occupied in about 1900 B.C. by the Indo-European Hittites and, after the Hittite empire's collapse in 1200 B.C. , by Phrygians and Lydian’s. The Persian Empire occupied the area in the 6th century B.C. , giving way to the Roman Empire, then later the Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Turks first appeared in the early 13th century, subjugating Turkish and Mongol bands pressing against the eastern borders of Byzantium and making the Christian Balkan states their vassals. They gradually spread through the Near East and Balkans, capturing Constantinople in 1453 and storming the gates of Vienna two centuries later. At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to western Algeria. Lasting for 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was not only one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Mediterranean region, but it generated a great cultural outpouring of Islamic art, architecture, and literature.
After the reign of Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent (1494–1566), the Ottoman Empire began to decline politically, administratively, and economically. By the 18th century, Russia was seeking to establish itself as the protector of Christians in Turkey's Balkan territories. Russian ambitions were checked by Britain and France in the Crimean War (1854–1856), but the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) gave Bulgaria virtual independence and Romania and Serbia liberation from their nominal allegiance to the sultan. Turkish weakness stimulated a revolt of young liberals known as the Young Turks in 1909. They forced Sultan Abdul Humid to grant a constitution and install a liberal government. However, reforms were no barrier to further defeats in a war with Italy (1911–1912) and the Balkan Wars (1912–1913). Turkey sided with Germany in World War I, and, as a result, lost territory at the conclusion of the war

Names of Turkey
The name of Turkey, Türkiye in the Turkish language, can be divided into two components: Türk, which means "strong" or "mighty" in Old Turkic and usually signifying the inhabitants of Turkey or a member of the Turkish or Turkic peoples, a later form of "Tu–kin", a name given by the Chinese to the people living south of the Altay Mountains of Central Asia as early as 177 BCE; and the abstract suffix –iye (derived from the Arabic suffix –iyya, but also associated with the Medieval Latin suffix –ia in Turchia.The territory of Turkey is more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 mi) long and 800 km (500 mi) wide, with a roughly rectangular shape. Turkey's area, including lakes, occupies 783,562 square kilometers (300,948 sq mi), of which 755,688 square kilometers (291,773 sq mi) are in Southwest Asia and 23,764 square kilometers (9,174 sq mi) in Europe. Turkey is the world's 37th-largest country in terms of area. The country is encircled by seas on three sides: the Aegean Sea to the west, the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Turkey also contains the Sea of Marmara in the northwest.


The first recorded use of the term "Türk" or "Türük" as an autonym is contained in the Orkhon inscriptions of the Göktürks (Celestial Turks) of Central Asia (c. 8th century CE). The English word "Turkey" is derived from the Medieval Latin Turchia (c. 1369).


Geography and climate


Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, connecting Europe (left) and Asia (right)
Turkey is a transcontinental Eurasian country. Asian Turkey (made up largely of Anatolia), which includes 97% of the country, is separated from European Turkey by the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles (which together form a water link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea). European Turkey (eastern Thrace or Rumelia in the Balkan Peninsula) comprises 3% of the country.

The European section of Turkey, Eastern Thrace, forms the borders of Turkey with Greece and Bulgaria. The Asian part of the country, Anatolia, consists of a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains, between the Köroğlu and Pontic mountain ranges to the north and the Taurus Mountains to the south. Eastern Turkey has a more mountainous landscape and is home to the sources of rivers such as the Euphrates, Tigris and Aras, and contains Lake Van and Mount Ararat, Turkey's highest point at 5,165 meters (16,946 ft).

Turkey is divided into seven census regions: Marmara, Aegean, Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean. The uneven north Anatolian terrain running along the Black Sea resembles a long, narrow belt. This region comprises approximately one-sixth of Turkey's total land area. As a general trend, the inland Anatolian plateau becomes increasingly rugged as it progresses eastward.
Mt. Ararat is the highest peak in Turkey at 5,165 m (16,946 ft)

Turkey's varied landscapes are the product of complex earth movements that have shaped the region over thousands of years and still manifest themselves in fairly frequent earthquakes and occasional volcanic eruptions. The Bosporus and the Dardanelles owe their existence to the fault lines running through Turkey that led to the creation of the Black Sea. There is an earthquake fault line across the north of the country from west to east, which caused a major earthquake in 1999.

The coastal areas of Turkey bordering the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea have a temperate Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters. The coastal areas of Turkey bordering the Black Sea have a temperate Oceanic climate with warm, wet summers and cool to cold, wet winters. The Turkish Black Sea coast receives the greatest amount of precipitation and is the only region of Turkey that receives high precipitation throughout the year. The eastern part of that coast averages 2,500 millimeters annually which is the highest precipitation in the country.
The coastal areas of Turkey bordering the Sea of Marmara including Istanbul, which connects the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea have a transitional climate between a temperate Mediterranean climate and a temperate Oceanic climate with warm to hot, moderately dry summers and cool to cold, wet winters. Snow does occur on the coastal areas of the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea almost every winter, but it usually lies no more than a few days. Snow on the other hand is rare in the coastal areas of the Aegean Sea and very rare in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea.

Conditions can be much harsher in the more arid interior. Mountains close to the coast prevent Mediterranean influences from extending inland, giving the central Anatolian plateau of the interior of Turkey a continental climate with sharply contrasting seasons.
Winters on the plateau are especially severe. Temperatures of −30 °C to −40 °C (−22 °F to −40 °F) can occur in eastern Anatolia, and snow may lie on the ground at least 120 days of the year. In the west, winter temperatures average below 1 °C (34 °F). Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures generally above 30 °C (86 °F) in the day. Annual precipitation averages about 400 millimeters (15 in), with actual amounts determined by elevation. The driest regions are the Konya plain and the Malatya plain, where annual rainfall frequently is less than 300 millimeters (12 in). May is generally the wettest

Turkish cuisine

Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Caucasian and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighboring cuisines, including that of Western Europe. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt), creating a vast array of specialties- many with strong regional associations.
Taken as a whole, Turkish cuisine is not homogeneous. Aside from common Turkish specialties that can be found throughout the country, there are also many region-specific specialties. The Black Sea region's cuisine (northern Turkey) is based on corn and anchovies. The southeast—Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana—is famous for its kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, kadayıf and künefe. Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees are grown abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking. The cuisines of the Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regions display basic characteristics of Mediterranean cuisine as they are rich in vegetables, herbs, and fish. Central Anatolia is famous for its pasta specialties, such as keşkek (kashkak), mantı (especially from Kayseri) and gözleme.

A specialty's name sometimes includes that of a city or region, either in or outside of Turkey, and may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area. For example, the difference between Urfa kebab and Adana kebab is the use of garlic instead of onion and the larger amount of hot pepper that kebab contains.

Börek (also burek, brik, piroq and other variants) is a family of baked or fried filled pastries made of thin flaky dough known as yufka (or phyllo). It can be filled with cheese, often feta, sirene or kaşar, minced meat, or vegetables. Invented in Central Asia by nomadic Turks, it became a popular element of Ottoman cuisine.


A börek may be prepared in a large pan and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries. The top of the börek is often sprinkled with sesame seeds.


Börek is very popular in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire including The Northern Slavic cuisines, historically living in close contact with the Turkic peoples of Asia and Europe, also feature derivatives of the börek




Walima challenge for May is homemade Yufka or phyllo pastry if you really have the patient for it, beside the ingredients you need a very thin and long rolling pin to help you stretch the dough as thinly as possible… If you don’t have one, I think the best alternative is the hardware store, where they sell woods, you can find something there….. a thin post or something, get it unvarnished or painted bring it home wash dry quickly and then with a towel rub olive oil all over it couple of times to seal it…. And let it dry for a week or so before using…

By all means you can look for a Turkish store to buy the ready made Yufka….and use your imagination with the stuffing either for savoury or sweet which is the same dough they make home made baklawa…. Check this site for step by step preparation http://nihalcrossroads.blogspot.com/2009/11/making-yufka.html

Also on you tube there are more than one video for making yufka


PHILO DOUGH (YUFKA) Recipe courtesy of http://culinaryart.wordpress.com/philo-dough-yufka/

These are ready made, very thin, big and round sheets of dough used for various kinds of pastries (börek), baked of fried. If you have to prepare the dough yourself for some of the Turkish recipes, you’ll need an 80 cm long rolling pin as thin as a finger (oklava). This is the only way to roll about paper thin sheets of dough for the famous flaky pastries. But it takes a certain experience to obtain the desired thinness.


Meat Borek



NightingaleNests

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Walima April Challenge Representing the Syrian Cuisine

Syria سوريا , officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية‎), is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.

The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, was the seat of the Umayyad Empire and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Empire. Damascus is widely regarded as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

Modern Syria was created as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was rocky, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949-1970. Syria has been under Emergency Law since 1962, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered non-democratic.

The country has been governed by the Baath Party since 1963, although actual power is concentrated to the presidency and a narrow grouping of military and political strongmen. Syria's current president is Bashar al-Assad, who won a referendum on extending his presidency for second term, garnering 97.62 percent of votes in 2007 and is the son of Hafez al-Assad, who held office from 1970 until his death in 2000. Syria has played a major regional role, particularly through its central role in the Arab conflict with Israel, which since 1967 has occupied the Golan Heights, and by active involvement in Lebanese and Palestinian affairs.

The population is mainly Sunni Muslim, but with significant Alawite, Shia, Christian and Druze minorities. Since the 1960s, Alawite military officers have tended to dominate the country's politics. Ethnically, some 80% of the population is Arab, and the state is ruled by the Baath Party according to Arab nationalist principles, while approximately 20% belong to the Kurdish, Armenian, Assyrian, Turkmen, and Circassians minorities.

Etymology

Main article: Name of Syria

The name Syria derives from ancient Greek name for Syrians, Σύριοι Syrioi, which the Greeks applied without distinction to the Assyrians. A number of modern scholars argue that the Greek word is traced back to the cognate Ἀσσυρία, Assyria, ultimately derived from the Akkadian - Aššur. While others believe that it was derived from Siryon, the name that the Sidonians gave to Mount Hermon.

The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically, Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between Egypt and Arabia to the south and Cilicia to the north, stretching inland to include Mesopotamia, and having an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elder describes as including, from west to east, Commagene, Sophene, and Adiabene.

By Pliny's time, however, this larger Syria had been divided into a number of provinces under the Roman Empire (but politically independent from each other): Judaea, later renamed Palaestina in AD 135 (the region corresponding to modern day Israel and Jordan) in the extreme southwest, Phoenicia corresponding to Lebanon, with Damascena to the inland side of Phoenicia, Coele-Syria (or "Hollow Syria") south of the Eleutheris river, and Mesopotamia.

Brief History of Modern Syria

Syria fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1516 and remained a part of their Ottoman Empire for four centuries. During this period, Syria witnessed great deterioration in economic, social, and political fields. In 1916, the Arabs took the opportunity of World War I to revolt against the Turkish rule. Arabs received British military help and promises that after the War ends, Arab countries will be granted full independence. On 6 May 1916, the Ottoman authorities hanged tens of Syrian national leaders in Damascus and Beirut. This day is still celebrated in Syria and Lebanon as the Martyrs' Day. The Arab armies under leadership of Sharif Hussein of Mecca soon achieved victory over the Turks, and in early 1918, Arab and British armies entered Damascus ending 400 years of Ottoman occupation.

Later in 1918, Syria was declared an independent kingdom under King Faisal I, son of Sharif Hussein. However, France and Britain had their own plans in mind. In an agreement known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, they decided to divide the Middle East into French and British 'spheres of influence'. Syria was to be put under French mandate. In early 1920, French troops landed on the Syrian coast, after several battles with poorly equipped Syrian rebels, they managed to get the country under their control. In 1923, the League of Nation officially recognized French mandate over Syria.

Syrian cuisine

Main article: Syrian cuisine

The Syrian cuisine is rich and varies in its ingredients which is linked to the region of Syria where a specific dish has originated. Syrian food mostly consists of Southern Mediterranean, Greek, and Southwest Asian dishes. Some Syrian dishes also evolved from Turkish and French cooking. Dishes like shish kebab, stuffed zucchini, yabra' (stuffed grape leaves, the word yapra' derives from the Turkish word 'yaprak' meaning leaf). The main dishes that form the Syrian cuisine are kibbeh, wara' Inab, hummus, Syrians often serve selections of appetizers, known as mezza, before the main course. Zaatar, minced beef, and cheese manakish are popular hors d'œuvres. The Arabic flatbread khobz is always eaten together with mezza. Syrians are also well-known for their cheese. The very popular string cheese jibbneh mashallale is made of curd cheese and is pulled and twisted together. Syrians also make cookies to usually accompany their cheese called ka'ak. These are made of farina and other ingredients, rolled out, shaped into rings and baked. Another form of a similar cookie is to fill with crushed dates mixed with butter to accompany their jibbneh mashallale. Drinks in Syria vary depending on the time of the day and the occasion. Arabic coffee, also known asTurkish coffee is the most well-known hot drink usually prepared in the morning at breakfast or in the evening. It is usually served for guests or after food. Syrian beverages include Ayran, Jallab, and White coffee. There is also a well-known locally manufactured beer called Al Shark.

The Walima April Challenge is brought to us by two lovely ladies... Nisrine from www.nisrine79.blogspot.com and Mona form www.l2ma.com .

Nisrine is from Damascus so I asked her if she can prepare a traditional Damascus Dessert. Mona is from Allepo, and they are famous for their tasty and spicy food, and several versions of kibbee. It took us some time to decide on the recipes, as several ingredients are not available in North America. I truly apologize for the delay... but we wanted to give you something which represent several provinces in Syria, and with ingredients available to every one is cooking with us.

The Spring Kibbee

This kibbee is prepared during the Spring Season when the shepherds milk the cows and sheep and use the milk to make homemade fresh cheeses


Ingredients for the stuffing:

Kilo Cheese Course (well rained from any liquid)
1-2 teaspoon powder red pepper
Toasted walnuts, almonds chopped or pine nuts
(the fresh cheese is similar to Ricotta Cheese where we can replace with, or by using fresh homemade ricotta with fresh Mozzarella Cheese/Boccoccini Cheese, well drained.

- You can use good quality fresh cheeses)

for the kibbee dough
500gm of lamb or beef lean meat either outside round/Eye of a round or fillet Mignong calf (grounded finely in a food processor to become a paste)
500gm fine Brown burghul
1 large Onion
1 tsp of Middle Eastern 7 spice mix (black pepper, all spice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, white pepper, dried rose petals this is optional )
Salt to taste
½ tsp cinnamon
homemade ghee or clarified butter
** some use less burghul to meat

How to prepare
Cut the cheese into slices and then add the hot pepper (Allepo ground hot red pepper )The sliced nuts and mix well.


Wash and soak the bulgur in little cold water for 10 to 15 good minutes and then drain.
Mince with the onion, bulgur wheat in food processor twice, the third time we add the meet and mince all together to combine, you might need to do this in several steps if the machine is not big enough.
Empty the mix in a big bowl, dip your hands in some water and start mixing and kneading the meat and burghul mix well to combine nice dough. Adjust the seasoning if need it.

Bring three small tea plates , turn the plates upside down and sprinkle some water on them and cover with a plastic wrap… cut a piece of the kibbee the size of an egg, and put it on one plate and press with the other to flatten it (like a Hamburg) add 2-3 tbsp of the stuffing in the centre of the dough, cover with another flatten kibbee dough, and press on the sides to close tightly and turn the top dough into a small dome (I think if we use a small deep dish or a ramekin will make it easier to form the dome shape… )

Grease a baking tray with ghee or clarified butter add the kibbee on the tray, you can dap a small piece of the ghee on top of each kibbee or using a brush. Bake the kibbee in preheat 400F oven, check every 10 minutes and brush again, dipping the brush in the pan drippings.

A tastier way of cooking these kibbee, if you brush them with the butter or ghee and BBQ outside on medium heat…until they are golden brown. Make sure the stuffing is not oozing out


Serve the kibbee with Middle Eastern Salad or Yogurt Iran (a diluted yogurt in some cold water and salt, some add dried mint and garlic)







Barazik Al Sham


200 gm soft butter

¼ cup powder sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla

3 cup of sifted AP Flour

1 tsp baking powder

Dash of salt

2 tsp white vinegar

In a mixer add the soft butter and the icing sugar and mix to combine, add the eggs and mix well. Add the vinegar and vanilla.



Sift the flour; salt and baking powder add them to the mix well so that they all combined to nice dough. Put the dough in the fridge to rest for one hour.


Take the dough out of the fridge and turn it into small balls – see Nisrine photos.


In separate bowls add around ½ cup of sesame seeds and 1 cup of sliced pistachios. Using the palm of your hand, flatten the round cookies and dip the bottom side with chopped pistachios and the top with sesame seeds.


Bake in preheated 350F oven for 10-13 minutes depends on your oven, or till golden brown



** Some recipes ask for honey syrup to brush the top before dipping in sesame seeds…It will give a darker golden color.















Let me know if you need the recipe for homemade Ricotta Cheese

Friday, March 26, 2010

Walima March Challenge - Representing the Tunisian Cuisine

My appology for forgetting to post the challenge earlier, so that you can participate in cooking with us this challenge... Still have couple of days if you like to give one of these recipes a try.

Tunisia, officially the Tunisian Republic (الجمهورية التونسيةal-Jumhūriyya at-Tūnisiyya), is the northernmost country in Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its size is almost 165,000 km² with an estimated population of just over 10.3 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the north-east. Tunisia is the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. The south of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and 1,300 km of coastline. Both played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the famous Phoenician city of Carthage, then as the Africa Province which was known as the "bread basket" of the Roman Empire. Later, Tunisia was occupied by Vandals during the 5th century AD, Byzantines in the 6th century, and Arabs in the 8th century. Under the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia was known as "Regency of Tunis". It passed under French protectorate in 1881. After obtaining its independence in 1956, the country took the official name of the "Kingdom of Tunisia" at the end of the reign of Lamine Bey and the Husainid Dynasty. With the proclamation of the Tunisian republic in July 25, 1957, the nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba became its first president and led the modernization of the country.

Today Tunisia is an export-oriented country, in the process of liberalizing its economy while, politically it is a dictatorship in all but name. Tunisia has an authoritarian regime in the guise of a procedural democracy led by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who has governed as President since 1987 and has systematically diminished freedom of press and political pluralism while keeping appearances of democracy (for references see, below, for the politics of Tunisia).

Tunisia has close relations with both the European Union — with whom it has an association agreement — and the Arab world. Tunisia is also a member of the Arab League and the African union. The regime's success in oppressing political Islam and its pro-western foreign policy has protected it from criticism for its lack of democratic accountability and its violations of human rights and freedom of press.

Every year numerous Tunisians attempt illegal immigration to European countries like Italy by sea. Many die trying when their small boats capsize or get adrift in the high seas. Others reach their destination only to be forcibly repatriated.

History

Antiquity

At the beginning of known recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 10th century B.C. The city of Carthage was founded in the 9th century B.C. by settlers from Tyre, now in modern day Lebanon. Legend says that Dido founded the city in 814 B.C., as retold in by the Greek writer Timaeus of Tauromenium. The settlers of Carthage brought their culture and religion from the Phoenicians and other Canaanites.

Elissar Queen of Tyre and the Shining City

According to Roman sources, Phoenician colonists led by Queen Dido (Elissa) founded Carthage in 814 BCE. Queen Elissa (also known as "Alissar", in Arabic name was an exiled princess of the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre. At its peak, the metropolis she founded, Carthage came to be called the "shining city," ruling 300 other cities around the western Mediterranean and leading the Phoenician (or Punic) world.

Elissa's brother, King Pygmalion of Tyre, had murdered her husband, the high priest. Elissa escaped the tyranny of her own country and founded the "new city" of Carthage and subsequently its later dominions. Details of her life are sketchy and confusing, but the following can be deduced from various sources. According to Justin, Princess Elissa was the daughter of King Matten of Tyre (also known as Muttoial or Belus II). When he died, the throne was jointly bequeathed to her and her brother, Pygmalion. She married her uncle Acherbas (also known as Sychaeus) the High Priest of Melqart, a man with both authority and wealth comparable to the king. This furthered rivalry between religion and the monarchy. Pygmalion was a tyrant, lover of both gold and intrigue, who desired the authority and fortune enjoyed by Acherbas. Pygmalion assassinated Acherbas in the temple and kept the misdeed concealed from his sister for a long time, deceiving her with lies about her husband's death. At the same time, the people of Tyre called for a single sovereign, causing dissent within the royal family.

When she ran away with her followers , they sail into the sea, and stopped the shores of a nice area and she said this is a shining city and here will build our new home. She met the king of that area and asked him if she can buy the land to build a home. The king asked her how big she wants her land and she said I will come back tomorrow to give you the exact measurement. She went home and asked her people to take a cow skin and cut it into very fine string and attach them together one by one a long rope. The second day she took the cow skin and went to the king and spread the rope on the ground as much as it opens and she said this is the size of my land. And she bought the Shining City – Carthage and build her new home. A new gate to the Phoenician kingdom was open.

The Roman Period

Though the Romans referred to the new empire growing in the city of Carthage as Punic or Phoenician, the empire built around Carthage was an independent political entity from the other Phoenician settlements in the Western Mediterranean.

A Carthaginian invasion of Italy led by Hannibal during the Second Punic War, one of a series of wars with Rome, nearly crippled the rise of the Roman Empire. Carthage was eventually conquered by Rome in the 2nd century BC, a turning point which led to ancient Mediterranean civilization having been influenced mainly by European instead of African cultures.

After the Roman conquest, the region became one of the granaries of Rome, and was Latinized and Christianized. The Romans controlled nearly all of modern Tunisia, unlike other modern African countries, of which Rome only held the northern coast. It was conquered by the Vandals in the 5th century AD and reconquered by the commander Belisarius in the 6th century during the rule of Byzantine emperor Justinian.

The Arab-Muslim Period

Around the end of the 7th century and the beginning of 8th century the region was conquered by Arab Muslims, who founded the city of Kairouan which became the first city of Islam in North Africa ; in this period was erected (in 670) the Great Mosque of Kairouan considered as the oldest and most prestigious sanctuary in the western Islamic world as well as a great masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture. Tunisia flourished under Arab rule. Extensive irrigation installations were constructed to supply towns with water and promote agriculture (especially olive production). This prosperity permitted luxurious court life and was marked by the construction of new Palace cities such as al-Abassiya (809) and Raqadda (877).

The Ottoman Rule

In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but these were recovered by the Ottoman Empire. Under its Turkish governors, the Beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. The Hussein dynasty of Beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957. From 1881 - 1956 the country was under French colonization. European settlements in the country were actively encouraged; the number of French colonists grew from 34,000 in 1906 to 144,000 in 1945. In 1910 there were 105,000 Italians in Tunisia.

Tunisian cuisine, the cuisine of Tunisia, is a blend of Mediterranean and desert dweller's culinary traditions. Its distinctive spicy fieriness comes from neighboring Mediterranean countries and the many civilizations who have ruled Tunisian land: Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Turkish, French, and the native Berber people. Many of the cooking styles and utensils began to take shape when the ancient tribes were nomads. Nomadic people were limited in their cooking by what locally made pots and pans they could carry with them. A tagine is really the name of a conical-lidded pot, although today the same word is applied to what is cooked in it.

Like all countries in the Mediterranean basin, Tunisia offers a "sun cuisine," based mainly on olive oil, spices, tomatoes, seafood (a wide range of fish) and meat from rearing (lamb).

Unlike other North African cuisine, Tunisian food is quite spicy. A popular condiment and ingredient which is used extensively Tunisian cooking, Harissa is a hot red pepper sauce made of red chili peppers and garlic, flavored with coriander, cumin, olive oil and often tomatoes. There is an old wives' tale that says a husband can judge his wife's affections by the amount of hot peppers she uses when preparing his food. If the food becomes bland then a man may believe that his wife no longer loves him. However when the food is prepared for guests the hot peppers are often toned down to suit the possibly more delicate palate of the visitor. Like Harissa or chili peppers, the tomato is also an ingredient which cannot be separated from the cuisine of Tunisia. Tuna, eggs, olives and various varieties of pasta, cereals, herbs and spices are also ingredients which are featured prominently in Tunisian cooking.

Shakshouka

This dish, with many variations, is a popular breakfast in North Africa, especially in Algeria and Tunisia. Most recipes include the eggs, but they can actually be left out if you like. Jewish immigrants from the Maghreb have made this a popular breakfast dish in Israel.

4 to 6 servings

Olive oil -- 3 tablespoons

Paprika -- 1 to 2 tablespoons

Onion, thinly sliced -- 1

Garlic, minced -- 2 to 3 cloves

Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced -- 3

Green and red bell peppers, diced -- 2 to 3

Water -- 1 cup

Salt and pepper -- to taste

Eggs (optional) -- 4

Method

Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Stir in the paprika and cook slighly to color the oil, about 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent and wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to reduce down a little bit. Add the peppers, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep it from drying out.

Using a spoon, form four small indentations in the simmering peppers to hold the eggs. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and slip each from the bowl into an indentation. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.

Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.

Variations

Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed to the hot oil for about 15 seconds before you add the paprika. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground coriander along with the onions.

For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of Harissa paste or a minced Chile pepper with the onions.

Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.

Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.

Add 1 potato, cut in a small dice, along with the peppers.

Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs. Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.

Indentation. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.

Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.

Variations

Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed to the hot oil for about 15 seconds before you add the paprika. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground coriander along with the onions.

For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of Harissa paste or a minced Chile pepper with the onions.

Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.

Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.

Add 1 potato, cut in a small dice, along with the peppers.

Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs. Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.

Makroud, Tunisian Date Pastry Recipe






Difficulty: Average


Chef's Note
Makhroud are small semolina cakes cut in the shape of lozenges, stuffed with dates, hazelnuts, or almonds, deep fried in oil and drizzled with honey or sugar syrup.


These delicacies are special because they combine the cereals of the north of the country with the olive oil of the Sahel region. In the past, Makhroud were made at home; today


bakers and pastry chefs do the work. The most famous are called “Segni-ben Sokrana-Bouhafer-Omrani”.



Semolina pastry


- 200 g (7 oz.) fine semolina

- 2 g (1/2 tsp.) ground saffron

- 100 ml (6 Tbsp.) vegetable oil

- 20 g (4 tsp.) butter

- a pinch of salt

Filling


- 150 g (5 oz.) dates (or other variety)

- 1 orange

- 2 g (1/2 tsp.) ground cinnamon

Syrup


- 150 g (5 oz.) powdered sugar

- 75 g (3 oz.) honey

- 1/2 lemon

- 50 ml (3 Tbsp.) geranium flower water, or orange flower water

- 250 ml (1 cup) water

Decoration


- Toasted sesame seeds

- Or ground almonds

Other


- oil for frying


Method


1st step

Heat and clarify the butter.

Combine it in a bowl with the vegetable oil.

Prepare the pastry by putting the semolina, saffron and salt in a bowl.

Add the clarified butter/oil mixture.

2nd step

Combine everything with a spatula.

Gradually add in 100 ml (6 Tbsp.) warm water to form elastic dough.

3rd step

Knead the dough on a work surface.

Form into a ball and spread out using the heel of your hand.

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, covered with a damp cloth.


4th step


Prepare the filling by pureeing the pitted dates in a blender.

Peel the orange and cut the zest into small dice.

Combine the dates, orange zest and cinnamon into a paste.


Shape into 3 cylinders.

5th step


Knead the dough again with the heel of your hand.

Divide into 3 equal pieces.

Form into cylinders 2 cm in diameter.

Using your fingers, form a cavity along the length of the cylinders.

Fill with a cylinder of date filling.

Seal the edges of the dough to enclose the filling.

Smooth and shape the cylinder lengthwise.

6th step


Using the wooden press, flatten the pastry (or use a rolling pin).

Cut the cylinders into rectangles and cut into equal-sized lozenges.

Squeeze the juice of half the lemon.

Combine the ingredients for the syrup.

Fry the lozenges in hot oil until golden.

Drain on paper towels before immersing in the syrup.

Note: Our friend Sabbah from Sousoukitchen has a video to show you how to prepare the makrout this is her link.

http://sousoukitchen-en.over-blog.com/article-46926495.html

Home made Clarified Butter - Gheen - Semen

Clarifying butter is as simple as melting butter and letting the milk solids settle or rise out of the fat. Care should be taken not to burn the butter while heating it, so use a heavy pan that doesn't have any hotspots. When using salted butter, it is difficult to guess how much salt will remain in the clarified butter. A lot of the salt can be found in the milk solids as it settles or foams up, but the exact amount will be different every time. Use unsalted butter to remove any uncertainty. You can add salt to the clarified butter later to achieve the desired saltiness).

To make approximately 1/2 cup of clarified butter, melt one cup (225 g) of butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a good saucepan, you can just leave it there over low heat while doing something else and the butter will slowly melt. Turning up the heat will melt the butter faster, but the milk solids may begin to burn, so, resist the temptation. Instead, you can cut up the butter into pieces to speed up melting. Also, if you don't have a small saucepan, it may be best to use more butter. Too little butter in a large diameter pan will make it difficult to separate the solids from the fat later.

When the butter has completely melted, continue to heat it over low heat. Some milk solids will drop to the bottom of the pan while others will rise as foam. As the milk solids rise to the top, they can be skimmed off. (Or, it can be removed when the butter cools.)


At this point you can remove the butter from the heat and skim off all the foam. Let the butter cool a bit to let more of the solids settle and then pour or spoon out the clarified fat, leaving the remaining milk solids in the pan.

Alternatively, pour the hot melted butter through cheesecloth to filter out the foam and solids that have settled, catching the clarified butter in a jar.

Or, pour the hot butter into a container, allow it to separate while cooling and then refrigerate. After it has solidified, you can easily scrape off the hardened foam from the stiff clarified butter layer.


Although pure clarified butter does not need to be refrigeration, I recommend you store your clarified butter in the refrigerator (at least for the first time when you make the Semen, as some milk solids may still be present and may cause the butter to go rancid). Use the clarified butter as you would use regular butter (tablespoon for tablespoon) in recipes.

Semen or clarified butter has no more lactose, so lactose-sensitive individuals should be able to enjoy clarified butter without the uncomfortable effects those of us who are lactose intolerant are well aware of.

أفضل الطرق لعمل المسلي (السمن البلدي


يُستخلص السمن من الزبد عن طريق التبخير، وكما نعلم فإن الزبد يُصنع من الحليب كامل الدسم، وبالتالي يتأثر المذاق والنوعية بنوع الحليب المُستخدم. يُسيح الزبد في إناء سميك على نار هادئة، ثم تُرفع الحرارة إلى متوسطة حتى تبدأ في الغليان ثم تخفض مرة أخرى. مع تقليب الزبد السائح تقليباً مستمرا ً حتى يتبخر منه جزء كبير من الماء ثم يُترك على النار بدون تقليب ليتراكم الحليب الصلب بقاع الإناء، وبسبب ملامسته للقاع فسيتحول لونه إلى البني ويترك الزبد الذي تحول إلى مسلي حتى يصبح لونه اصفر كهرماني شفافاً، يُرفع من على النار ويُترك جانباً حتى يبرد قليلاً ثم يُصفى ( وعند تصفيته يُراعى عدم خلط المترسب في القاع مع المسلي )، يُعبأ في برطمانات نظيفة مجففة ويغلق جيداً.


عند استخدام السمن على نار مرتفعة نلاحظ تحملها للحرارة على عكس الزبد، والسبب في ذلك هو كمية الحليب السائل الذي تبخر أثناء عملية التحول من زبد إلى سمن، فإذا كان الغرض استخدام النكهة فقليل من السمن يكفي لإعطاء النكهة المطلوبة، وإن لم يكن لدينا السمن فيمكن استخدام قليل من الزيت ( زيت خضار بدون نكهة قوية) مع الزبد وذلك يساعد على تحمل الزبد للحرارة. وكما يتم في حالة الزيت من إضافة نكهات مختلفة من أعشاب عطرية وبهارات وتوابل عن طريق تسخين الزيت ووضع الأعشاب أو البهار به فيمكن اتباع نفس الخطوات مع السمن.