The Maghreb (North Africa) Cuisine
A few Middle Eastern countries belong to North Africa area, AKA the Maghreb . Those countries are Morocco, Tunis, Algeria and Lybia. The minority ethnic group and the original population on North africa is the Berbers. Till today, they often live in the mountains and in smaller settlements. Berbers are Muslims, but there are many traditional practices found among them.
Maghreb is known for its tajin (meats cooked with chick peas and vegetables) and for its endless sauces, fish barbecues, chilly starters. Couscous is a typical dish whice comes with endless variety of preparations and sauces, changing according to seasons .
Each of the four countries that make up the Maghreb has its own particular style and flavor of cooking. Although their tables are different, they share many common recipes .
The Maghreb is a rich place. The land is fertile and the growing capacity is vast. The food shows the influences of all the different peoples who, at one time or another, have settled there. African, Islamic, Arab, Berber, Ottoman, French, Italian and Spanish.
The cuisine of North Africa presents colors, perfumes and flavors.
Morrocan culinary culture holds its roots from the indigenous Berbers and Arabs, who invaded the land in the 7th century AD. A singular characteristic of this influence is the combination of meat and fruit, such as chicken and apricots or lamb and dates. Such pairings were common in Iraq.
Moroccan cuisine is rich in spices. Spices commonly used include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, saffron, cayenne, paprika, and black pepper. Spicy sweet taste cookery achieved through the addition of honey, sugar or fruit to casseroles and couscous sauces. Fruits and vegetables have always been grown and fish and seafood are plentiful due to the large coastline, while its inland environment has always been perfect for the raising of large quantities of sheep and goat.
Moroccan Jewish cooking is a mix of local traditional cuisine with Sephardic way of cooking broguht to Morocco from Spain which developed into a variety of dishes.
Following their expulsion from Spain in 1492, Jews crossed into North Africa and filtered into Tunisia, principally Tunis, joining the already‑settled community there in the Hara, the Jewish quarter, which had been established in the 11th century. An additional community from Leghorn (Livorno), Italy, joined the Tunisian Jews in the 16th and 17th centuries, thereby adding the Italian flavors and style of cooking to the existing cuisine.
Tunisian cuisine had developed from the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, Portuguese, Turks, Italians, and finally the French.
As in Morocco , Jewish cooking is based on existing style of cooking mix with local food that created another style of cooking.
Jews from Leghorn, Italy, arrived in Libya in the 17th century. They settled in Tripoli, the capital, and the Italian influence on the cuisine began. It still relies on the basic practices of the Maghreb using Couscous, chick‑peas, white beans, lamb, beef, fish, hot chilies, parsley, basil, tomato paste, cuminseed, caraway, turmeric, and nutmeg which add flavor to seasoned foods .
Couscous, is the national food of Libya, Morocco, Tunis, algeria and of the Jews. It is prepared at home. Arab influence contributed cinnamon and other spices which are used with meat, especially the use of the cinnamon stick. Italian influence inspired the use of tomato paste and sauces.
Libyan cooking is seasonal and depends upon the availability of what's available, with focus on hearty grains, legumes, and vegetables, usually accompanied by lamb, beef, or fish. The popularity of pizza & pasta is a legacy of the Italian occupation in the early 20th century.
Algerian cuisine shows the historic influences of Berber, Arab, Turkish, and French tastes. The traditional diet of desert nomads is based on couscous as in the rest of the Maghreb countries, and the meat of the sheep or goats they herd.
Morocco is the only North African country that was not occupied by the Ottoman Empire during its presence in the region (1500s–1700s). Stuffed vine leaves, like Turkish and Syrian puff pastries such as baklava and brîk, are commonly prepared in formerly Ottoman Algeria and Tunisia, but do not feature in Moroccan cuisine.
On the other hand, Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan cookery alike have been heavily influenced by the introduction of crops from the New World such as tomatoes, courgettes, sweet peppers and potatoes. These foods were introduced to North Africa before they were introduced to central Europe.
Mâ kainsh el-kalâm cala ettacâm = Where there is food, there is no talking
The Maghreb - Chapter II