Most of Algeria’s population is pro-Islam. Religion has a major influence on the country’s cuisine. Thus, Muslims do not eat pork, do not drink alcohol, and fast every year during the holy month of Ramadan.
The population is mainly concentrated in the coastal zone near the Tell-Atlas mountains, and the rest of Algeria is the Sahara Desert. However, a small number of nomads do live in the desert, and their gastronomic traditions are also included in the cuisine of Algeria.
Fertile land is scarce, they grow mostly wheat, barley and potatoes. Vegetables, fruit and olive trees are grown in the oases.
Bread, pasta and couscous are the three pillars of the Algerian diet. Vegetables are also added, among which tomatoes and bell peppers are especially popular.
Tomato as an ingredient is used to give the dish a bright color, sweetness and a little – sourness.
Locals love to cook stuffed peppers and tomatoes. The vegetables are stuffed with rice-meat stuffing and roasted on coals. The same vegetables are also salted, pickled and candied.
Fruits are also canned here, with everything from apples, tangerines, lemons, kumquats, quinces, bananas, melons and watermelons.
As we have already said, Algerians do not eat pork – for religious reasons. But lamb is very popular. The local chefs, as well as owners and housewives, love and know how to cook it.
The lamb cooked on the grill or on a skewer in the form of kebab is very good.
The mutton is also baked in tajine. Normally, flatbread and couscous are served with the meat. Lentils and chickpeas are less common. The French colonies have left their mark: baguettes are very popular here.
Interestingly, bread is not used to fill a meal, but as a cutlery: a slice of baguette is scooped into a sauce or gravy.
A special word deserves couscous – the pride and national dish of the country. Couscous is a steamed wheat grits.
It is usually served with lamb or chicken meat, as well as with boiled vegetables and sauce. The word couscous itself translates from Arabic very simply as “food”. Couscous is sometimes made with turnips, raisins, peas, and red peppers.
Often cumin and coriander are added, making it a very flavorful dish. If couscous is served as a dessert or breakfast, it can also be sweet. In that case, honey, cinnamon, and almonds are added to the wheat porridge.
Although Algeria is a country with a long coastline, we cannot say that fish and seafood are particularly popular here. Nevertheless, sardines, anchovies, squid, shrimp and clams can be eaten.
Chicken and eggs are frequent guests on the table of Algerians. Of the first courses, chorba soup with spices is popular. Both a hot appetizer and a main course – burek, which is a mixture of minced meat with onions and eggs, fried in a liquid dough.
The poor have an extremely poor assortment of dishes; they eat mostly bread made of various grains and a drink made of a mixture of water and goat’s cheese.
Algeria is a hot country, but this does not negate the tradition of drinking hot drinks. Algerians prefer very strong black coffee. Tea is mostly “not tea,” but mint tea with the addition of honey or sugar.
They often drink fruit juices, including freshly squeezed, for example, from apricots. Lavan is popular – for the drink they mix yogurt, water and mint leaves.
Although Algeria has vineyards and makes wine, but alcohol is not in demand for the same religious reasons.
Of the traditions related to food, it is worth highlighting those related to religious festivals. On all important dates Algerians cook special dishes. For example, on the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, it is customary to eat a lot of dried fruit, especially dates.
And during the holy month of Ramadan the adherents of Islam do not eat and do not drink even water after sunrise and until sunset. It is interesting that the Muslim calendar differs from the usual Gregorian calendar, and that is why the time of Ramadan varies from year to year.
During this month, the family sits down at the table only after dark, and the end of the fast is celebrated with a variety of dishes, pastries and sweets.