Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dish #3: Algeria - Tli Tli B'djedj with Khobz El Dar

For Algeria, I made Tli Tli B'djedj, which is orzo coated with a sauce of chicken broth, tomato paste, chickpeas, and onion, topped with braised chicken and hard-boiled eggs.  We love all these things, so I was excited for this dish.  I've also somehow never cooked orzo before, so this was an opportunity to do so.  Instead of steaming the orzo separately like the recipe instructed, or boiling it like the package suggested, and then adding it to the sauce after, I opted to simmer the orzo in the sauce.  I think this gave the orzo a lot more flavor than just cooking it in water would have.  Orzo, which you can often find in rice pilaf, on its own is an interesting middle ground between pasta and arborio rice (used in risotto).  I liked it in this dish a lot, because the sauce coated it the way it would pasta, but it had the texture of rice.

I didn't have any ras el hanout spice mix on hand, so I approximated my own version.  Ras el hanout is a mixture of up to 50 different spices prevalent in Moroccan and North African cuisine.  It's sort of like a curry mix, so I followed that concept as a guide for making my own.  I used everything I had in my cabinet that seemed like it was in the right family of spices: anise, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, coriander, paprika, garam masala, mace, cinnamon, and clove, plus sea salt, cracked black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

I also made Khobz El Dar, a semolina bread that is known as the "Bread of the House" in Algeria, where it is very traditional.  Semolina, the flour often used in making pasta, is another ingredient I've never used in cooking before now.  The recipe I used talked a lot about how difficult the dough was to work with due to its stickiness, but I skipped the trouble and used my bread machine to make the dough, which worked perfectly.  I then stretched out the dough in a 12" round cake pan, sprinkled it with some more semolina, and let it rise for another 15 minutes before brushing egg yolk on it and dusting it with sesame seeds and poppy seeds (a substitute for nigella seeds, which I did not have in my pantry), and then baking it until it was browned on top.  The bread was delicious, like a light ciabatta.  I really want to cook with semolina more, and I am going to try making pasta with it soon.

Tli Tli B'djedj (recipe from Food.com)
1 whole chicken ( or 6-8 pieces bone-in chicken - I used 1 1/2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs)
1 cup canned chick-peas
2 T butter
1/4 t black pepper
3/4 t cinnamon
2 T tomato paste
1 onion, minced 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t ras el hanout spice mix
salt, to taste

4 eggs

2 cups orzo 
1 cup chicken stock, plus more as needed to keep from drying out
Cut chicken up into serving sizes (6-8 pieces).  Brown in a large pan with the butter, finely chopped onions, cinnamon, ras el hanout, and pepper.  Add 1 cup chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes. 

Add chick peas and enough chicken stock to cover, garlic, and the tomato paste.

Cover and cook on medium heat for 1 hour.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the orzo and eggs.  Hard boil the eggs, then peel and cut into halves.  In a bowl, mix the orzo with 1/2 cup water. Place in a steamer & steam for 15 minutes. Remove from steamer and separate the orzo with a little water.
Put the pasta in a large pan and slowly spoon in a little sauce at a time until the ozro is fully cooked and the sauce has been absorbed and coats the orzo.
Place orzo on erving plates and top with the chicken pieces and egg halves.

Khobz El Dar (recipe from Food.com)

3 1/2 cups semolina
1 1/4 cups white bread flour
2 cups water
1/2 cup canola oil
2 1/4 t yeast
1 egg
2 t sugar
2 t salt
2 large egg yolks, beaten
2 T sesame seeds
1 T nigella seeds (I substituted poppy seeds)

Grease a 12" round metal pan.
Place the semolina, flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in pan of bread machine.  Then add egg, oil, and 2 cups of water.  Start machine on dough cycle.

When cycle ends, remove the dough with wet hands and place in greased pan.  Pre-heat oven to 375° F.  Gently push the dough until it completely covers the base of the pan, re-wetting your hands as necessary.  Sprinkle a handful of semolina over the top, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled in size, 15-20 minutes.
Brush the top of the dough with the egg yolks and sprinkle the sesame seeds and nigella/poppy seeds over the top.  Using a skewer or toothpick, prick five holes in the dough, making sure to go all the way through - one hole in the center, and four evenly-spaced holes around the edge, 1" from the sides of the pan.
Cook in pre-heated oven until golden, 25-35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a kitchen towel.  Wrap the bread in the towel and cool on a wire rack.

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