Sunday, January 25, 2009

M'hadjub ... M'hajub

This is an Algerian dish that I enjoy making, it's fun to make the dough, it's fun to stretch it and fold it over and it's great for winter days as it's spicy! When I do make it, I love to eat at least three but I can only make it every couple of months, it's oil content is too high.

4 cups of fine semolina
2 cups of room temperature water plus two tablespoons, more depending on semolina texture
salt to taste
light olive oil for frying and stretching out the dough


3 medium tomatoes
6 medium onions
hot pepper
tomato paste

I used an entire package of semolina (I didn't measure it, but it's about a kilo, four cups) and added water bit by bit until a very smooth and elastic dough was formed.

You shouldn't be able to feel the coarseness of the semolina grains at all. This takes like ten to fifteen minutes by hand or five to eight by a mixer. I like to do it by hand, but the mixer works great too.
After the dough is soft, elastic, smooth and very silky, coat with olive oil and set to the side to prepare the filling.
Shred the onions and tomatoes. Cook on medium high heat, salted, until they are soft and all of the water is gone and all you have is a thick onion spread. Season with hot paprika, cumin, salt, & black pepper.
Finish cooking until thick.


Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste. Set aside to completely cool.

Rolling out the dough is the fun part. I couldn't take pictures because my hands are all oily and really you need both hand to make this pastry. I will however post a whole new Mhadjub post soon with full pictures, or maybe even a video.
Break off a lemon sized ball, and place it on a well oiled counter top.
Don't worry if it rips in places, as long as the middle part is fine, the filling shouldn't leak out.
Dip the dough into olive oil, or sprinkle some on top of it. I use Olive Oil, but really any oil works.
Using a circular motion press the dough out until its paper thin.
Leave the middle thicker then the rest of the pastry so it may support the filling.
Practice a few times and it will be perfect, but don't stress yourself out into tears!
Place a couple spoons of cooled filling and gently stretch the dough on one side opposite of the filling over the filling. 
Then repeat with the other three sides.
Place on a hot heavy cooking skillet, preferably something like cast iron.
I use my two burner grill pan, cast iron, flat one one side, grilled on the other. Or my cast iron pizza pan.
A nonstick pan works as well, and it's what most people use... But just in case you don't know, they are extremely hazardous to your health. Flip it when the side is well browned.
Sever with tea, or soup, or eat it alone with a glass of cold milk like me!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chicken & Olives Tagine

This is really one of my favorite dishes from Algeria!
Its so aromatic, I love to make it and I really love to eat it.
One of the special qualities of this dish is how forgiving it is. You can add some things and take some away without any problems. Just make sure you have the olives, chicken and carrots with the spices and it will be delicious!

chicken of your choice, I use breasts
mushrooms (optional)
potatoes (optional)
one large onion
one garlic head (optional)
teaspoon of cinnamon
teaspoon of black pepper
pinch of salt
teaspoon of turmeric (optional)
preserved or fresh lemons (optional)
fresh or dried parsley or cilantro
    I really love the taste of caramelized onions and garlic in olive oil, I think it really adds complexity and texture. I know a lot of people puree, grate, or blend the onions, I don't think it adds much to the dish, so I don't do it.
    Caramelize the onions in olive oil then add the roughly chopped garlic half way through.
    Add the sliced carrots, so they can also brown a bit. It brings the sweetness out in them and also helps with the color of the dish.
    After the carrots are a bit brown, add the chopped mushrooms. I only half mine, but you can quarter them or leave them whole if you prefer.
    Mushroom absorb most of anything you cook them in, so I like them best with the garlic and carrots. After they are a bit soft and cooked add the chicken to brown. This is also when I add the spices, minus the turmeric. Be really light handed with the salt as olives are salty.
    After the chicken has browned a bit, add the olives.
    Add the quartered or halved potatoes.
    Add the turmeric and parsley.
    I add just about a half cup of water and bring it up to a boil. If I were using preserved lemons I would add a wedge now. I pressure cook this dish for about ten to fifteen minutes.
    Add fresh chopped parsley for a garnish and use a baguette or Khubz Tagine for your eating utensil.
    Here is an authentic Algerian dish!