North African food is defined as sophisticated and flavored food which has been influenced a lot by various travelers, traders, immigrants, migrants and invaders over the last many centuries. The culinary style of North Africa is diverse like that of its land which is diverse in terms of various factors viz political, social, geographical, cultural and economical.
North African Cuisine – Historical Influences
North African food has a long history of around 2000 years. Different kinds of foods were introduced by different people of different nations.
- Sausages were introduced by Phoenicians
- Wheat and semolina (by product of wheat) were introduced by Carthaginians
- Berbers came up with couscous, a dish made of semolina, which is now considered to be staple North African food
- Before Romans entered the country, olive oil and olives were already introduced in North African cuisine
- Introduction of spices like nutmeg, saffron, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon has been attributed to Arabs
- Bakery products were brought in by Ottoman Turks
- New World in North Africa came up with tomatoes, chilis, zucchini, and potatoes.
North African Cuisine – Cooking Style
North African food is similar in various ways in almost all North African countries, where there may be only a slight difference in cooking style and ingredients used in food preparation. Also, there may be few dishes having the same name, with entirely different preparation method and ingredients used. Further, at times, the dishes are similar in preparation but bear different names. For example, a popular North African food "tajine”, in Morocco, is prepared in the form of slowly cooked stew, whereas in Tunisian region it is a baked omelet like dish.
North African Cuisine – Popular Foods and Recipes
Chicken Couscous is a well-liked North African food, where chicken (seasoned with lime sauce) is cooked with garlic, olive oil, onions, chicken broth, lime juice, celery, and garbanzo beans, and served hot after pouring Raisin Couscous on top of it. Raisin couscous is a mix of chicken broth, raisins, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and couscous, which is boiled and served hot. Lime sauce is a mix of fresh lime juice, coriander, salt, ground cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and pepper.
Moroccan Shish Kebab
This is a popular North African food which is prepared by combining together lemon juice, yogurt, olive oil, mint, onion, coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper; meat is added to this mixture and allowed to marinate in refrigerator for around five hours; and grilled on skewers with green peppers mushrooms, onions and tomatoes, until brown in color; and served hot with rice.
Other foods popular in North Africa include North African Lentil Soup (international soup prepared in north African version), Moroccan Carrot Salad (having definitive north African taste), and Moroccan Lemon Chicken With Olives (highly flavored)