Category:Tunisian recipes

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The amphitheatre at El Djem
Chillies for sale in Tozeur

In this category you will find recipes from Tunisia in English. Tunisian cuisine is a blend of Mediterranean and desert dweller's culinary traditions. Its distinctive spicy fieriness comes from neighbouring Mediterranean countries and the many civilisations which have ruled over the land now known as Tunisia: 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 implements by what locally made pots and pans they could carry with them. A tagine, for example, is actually the name for a pot with a conical lid, 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 and meat (primarily lamb).

Spicy food

Unlike other North African cuisine, Tunisian food is quite spicy. A popular condiment and ingredient which is used extensively in Tunisian cooking, harissa, is a hot sauce made of red chillies and garlic, flavoured 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 chillies 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 chillies are often toned down to suit the possibly more delicate palate of the visitor. Like harissa or chillies, 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 feature prominently in Tunisian cooking.

Ingredients

A brief overview of Tunisian culinary ingredients includes the following typical elements:

Tunisians also produce unique and delicate varieties of grapes, wheat, barley and orchard fruits, which are the source of outstanding wines (Chateau Mornag), beers, brandy (Bhouka - fig liqueur, Tbibanine - date liqueur), and apple cider. Tabil, pronounced "table" is a word in Tunisian Arabic meaning "seasoning " (similar to 'adobo' in Spanish) and refers to a particular Tunisian spice mix, although earlier it only meant ground coriander. Paula Wolfert makes the plausible claim that tabil is one of the spice mixes brought to Tunisia by Muslims coming from Andalusia in 1492 after the fall of Granada. Today, tabil, closely associated with the cooking of Tunisia, features garlic, cayenne pepper, caraway seeds and coriander pounded in a mortar, then dried in the sun. It is often used in cooking beef, veal and game.

Seafood

Thanks to its long coastline and numerous fishing ports, Tunisia offers an abundant and varied selection of fish. Most diners in Tunisia are also content to have their fish fillet simply fire-grilled and seasoned with olive oil, a lemon wedge and salt and pepper to taste. Fish can also be baked, fried in olive oil, stuffed, seasoned with cumin. Squid, cuttlefish, and octopus are often served in hot crispy batter with slices of lemon, in a cooked salad, or stuffed and served with couscous.

Tunisians also love fire-grilled stuffed vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, sweet peppers, squash and turnips. Although they do consume dairy products such as milk (hlib), buttermilk (lban), yoghurt (yaghurt) and soft cheeses (jban), they are never used as ingredients in national dishes.

Tunisia is a country filled with contrasts. There are many different regional aspects in every single facet of the culture. Tunisian cuisine varies from north to south, from the coast to the Atlas Mountains, from urban areas to the countryside, and along religious affiliations. For instance, the original inhabitants of Tunis (the Beldiya), do not use harissa much; they prefer milder food, and have also developed their own breads and desserts. Their dominant culinary influences are French and Italian and their diet evolves around beef, turkey and chicken. But closer to the Atlas mountain range, game is favoured. A diet may be composed of quail, pigeons, partridges, rabbits and hare. And in the Cap Bon, people especially enjoy tuna, anchovies, sardines, sea bass and mackerel. On the island of Djerba, where there is a dense Sephardic population, only Kosher foodstuffs are consumed. In Hammamet, snails are enjoyed. And finally, offal is a traditional staple of Tunisian cooking, eg. tripe, lamb brains, beef liver and fish heads.

TUNISIAN RECIPES