In previous columns, I’ve written about my love for various dishes across sub-Saharan Africa, including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, and more. I haven’t yet focused on North Africa, though. The region is home to a diverse selection of foods—here are my favorites.
1) Couscous: Couscous is a very versatile grain that can be served in various ways (salad, side dish, even dessert), but my favorite remains the traditional way, as an accompaniment to a north African stew made with meat and vegetables. It soaks in the juices from the stew and transforms every meal into a real delight.
2) Tagine: This dish is named after the pot in which it’s cooked. The cooking method and the clay pot allow the mix of meat and vegetables to simmer, and to absorb and develop deep flavors. Served with couscous, a lamb, chicken or vegetables tagines are an excellent way to spend a meal.
3) Grilled sardines: If you want to learn how to play hard to get, schedule some private sessions with grilled sardines. They are difficult to eat, once you go through the crispy and yummy outer layer. The bones can be off-putting, but the delicate and flavorful flesh is very much worth it. If you’ve only ever had sardines out of a can, try the fresh grilled ones. You are in for a treat—just don’t give up after the first attempt!
4) Mechoui: You know you’ve arrived at a Party—yes, Party with capital “P”—when you see a whole lamb roasting on the grill. You know it’s going to be a great party when the lamb is stuffed with vegetables and other tender delicacies. If someone—say, a person who did not grow up eating this dish—ever questioned the need for diversity in cuisines, tasting mechoui will make them change their mind.
5) Fruit basket (oranges, clementines, tangerines): North Africa, with its Mediterranean climate, produces some of the best oranges, clementines, and tangerines in the world. The oranges can be so good that you’d think someone introduced some honey in them. Consumed in the shade, lounging by a swimming pool or on the beach, they are a delight. Enjoy!
6) Merguez: Hot, spicy sausage. Need I say more? Merguez have a distinctive taste and are a great addition to a stew. I like eating them simply grilled for breakfast with scrambled eggs. Delicious!
7) Lentil soup: Heartwarming, packed with nutrients, lentil soup will help you start your meal on a high note. Well-executed, lentil soup can actually be a meal in and out of itself. The kind of meals that leave you either ready to go run a mile or with plenty of room for dessert.
8) Baklava: Speaking of dessert, a well-made baklava will you leave you speechless. Why speak? The flaky crusts, laden with honey and pistachios, are fighting to decide which will overpower your taste buds. None of them wins though—they are perfectly balanced, and it is the fusion of all the ingredients and the combinations of texture that makes this dessert so amazing.
9) Mint tea: Refreshing, light, this is the perfect tea to end a perfect meal. The mint flavor is just right and has naturally sweet overtones. With or without sugar, this is a simple yet satisfying drink.
Linda Dempah co-founded and writes for Tropical Foodies, a blog dedicated to dishes using tropical ingredients. She is living a passionate, lifelong love story with plantains and is sharing her enthusiasm for all the other tropical ingredients on her blog. Follow her on Twitter and “like” the blog on Facebook.