ALGERIA: Lham Lahlou

While Algeria shares a lot of dishes with other parts of North Africa and the Mediterranean, there’s some really interesting dishes that seem to be particularly popular in Algeria. Lham lahlou is one of those – a sweet meat stew consisting of lamb stewed with spices, dried fruit, sugar, and orange blossom water. Fruit and meat can make some great combinations, especially when given lots of time for flavours to mingle. Lham lahlou is commonly eaten during Ramadan, usually unsalted so it doesn’t provoke thirst during fasting.

I found a good recipe for the dish at Whats4eats that uses prunes and raisins, as well as saffron, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric. The only real variation I did was making it half beef and half lamb – the cost of lamb is so high here in Canada right now that if I had only used lamb, the meat alone would have cost $30 CAD. Couldn’t find any reference on substituting edible gold instead!

It’s very easy to make and doesn’t need too much attention while it’s simmering away, and each step made my house smell like a new wonderful treat. Most recipes suggest a side of couscous or rice, but I’m serving it with a side of pearl barley to soak up the sauce since that’s what’s handy.

The meat is falling apart tender, and it’s not as sweet as I expected, despite literally putting sugar into the broth. The prunes and raisins have started to disintegrate into the sauce, giving it a rich plummy flavour – it thickened up well, even though I kept the lid on. It’s hard to pick out the individual spices or the orange blossom water, because everything has blended after the long simmer. This is exceptionally good, I can see where almost every reference says it’s a favourite!

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