Carrot salad (Algeria)

Algeria is a large country in North Africa, the largest in Africa and tenth largest (by area) in the world. It is mostly an Arab country, with Sunni Islam as the religion, though there are many ethnic groups and most people have a Berber background. Algeria has had a colorful history of many rulers and empires of different ethnicities, from the Roman Empire to the Ottomans and the French. Besides Arabic, Berber and French are widely spoken. Two large mountain ranges, the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean basin together cover most of the country. Oil and gas and their byproducts form over 90% of Algeria’s exports, making it a relatively wealthy country. Interestingly, women contribute more to household incomes than men and form the majority of university students and over 70% of Algerian lawyers.

Algerian cuisine has been influenced by the Arabs, Berbers, French, Ottomans and other Mediterranean cuisines. Wheat is used a lot, especially in the form of couscous, but also kesra flatbread and even French baguettes. Meat is also consumed at nearly every meal, especially lamb, Islam forbids pork. Many foods also include eggs, but there are quite a few vegetarian dishes too. Foods often include a wide variety of spices, sometimes in spice mixes such as ras el hanout. Garlic, cumin, caraway, black pepper, cinnamon and chili are used in many dishes. Various types of beans and lentils are used. Vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, cabbage and olives are often cooked into stews, cooked in tagines, a special type of clay pot where steam condenses into the flute-shaped top. Mint tea, coffee, juices and sodas are all popular drinks. Most desserts contain honey.

There are two kinds of recipes for an Algerian carrot salad floating around online. I got this one from AllRecipes. I normally never boil or steam carrots, but they’re pretty good in this recipe.

Algerian carrot salad

Algerian carrot salad

1 1/2 cups/3.6 dl water
2 lbs/900 g carrots, peeled and sliced
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp lemon juice

Steam the carrots for 4-5 minutes, until done but not mushy. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, and thyme. Cook the spices and garlic, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid and the bay leaf, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the carrots, tossing well to coat with the spice mixture, and cook until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and remove the bay leaf before serving.

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