Chorba is a North African stew with tonnes of varieties, but generally a tomato-based soup with lamb, veggies, and some sort of pasta or grain – in this case, frik (freekeh). I’ve never had frik before, so I’m looking forward to trying it!
I’m using this recipe from Allrecipes, particularly because it has a fun process of steaming then squishing the tomatoes with a spoon to force them through a steamer. I made a few minor variations – I used beef instead of lamb (my supermarket was out of lamb, plus beef is apparently used in some varieties of this recipe). I also used Korean pepper instead of paprika – always down for a bit more of a punch. The chorba is making my house smell amazing as it cooks, particularly since there’s cinnamon and mint in with the meat and veg.
Oh yum – the frik adds a beautiful smokiness that goes really well with the punchiness of the black and red pepper, with a lot of richness from the cinnamon and meat. The mint really makes this special and different, though, it works so well. This is a really nice hearty meal!
Please enjoy this funny monologue from Algerian comedian Fellag – a “Who’s on First” type skit about the colonial French government trying to record Algerian names.
Fellag also has some serious acting chops – he starred in the Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar (available with English subtitles) as an Algerian immigrant teaching at a Montreal elementary school as the children process the loss of their previous teacher, and as he works through the grief of what he left behind. It’s an incredibly poignant and touching film.
A great month for radio – there are a lot of options for interesting Algerian programming. Most of these were found through Radio Garden – and there are a lot more options from Algeria if you’re interested!
Radio Algérie Chaîne 3 – Radio Algérie is Algeria’s public broadcaster, so there are a huge selection of channels. In addition to specific music, Quranic study, sports and other channels, it has three main talk channels. The first is in Arabic, the second in Berber languages, and the third in French. I ended up listening to the French channel, since that’s the one I speak. There’s news, interviews, call-ins from the public, as well as a mix of western and Algerian pop music. Listen live here.
Radio Tamenrasset – Most of the radio I’ve been listening to is from coastal Algerian cities, particularly Algiers, so I decided to use Radio Garden to find the station furthest south into the Sahara I could find, in Tamenrasset. Music is mostly Amazigh / Algerian folk music, and I tuned in a few days ago during Eid to a beautiful show of members of the public calling in to sing recitations of the Quran. Listen live here.
Skyrock Alger – Really great mix of high energy pop, rap, and dance – they seem to mix between Algerian, French and Top 40 hits – when I was listening they were playing Lil Nas X’s Montero on heavy rotation. Its a great song, so I’m not fussed. Not much talk, about from their bumper of “le soleil, la mer, le foot – Skyrock Alger” (The sun, sea, and soccer). Listen live here.
Jow Radio – This has probably been my favourite radio station to listen to – it’s a digital radio station in Algiers that plays one of the biggest range of music – Algerian / Maghreb, French, Top 40, and pretty much every style of music – rap, dance, pop, 90s, oldies. Listen live here.
Let’s try the second half of the Algerian snacks I got from Bahdja Market. It’s a very similar setup as the other snacks – pop, wafers, and cookies!
Apple Slim – There’s several different fruit flavours of Slim – I was torn between pineapple and apple, but went for the latter since that’s a surprisingly uncommon drink flavour here in Canada. Despite the name, it’s not diet pop. It’s also not artificial “green apple” flavour, it’s more like pop meets apple juice. It’s floral, with a bite of a bite – I really like it!
Bimo Vanilla Wafer cookies – In addition to the chocolate wafer cookies from my last post, I got a pack of vanilla ones as well. Just very nice vanilla wafers – not too sweet and just right.
Maxon XL – Like two arrowroot cookies with chocolate in between them. Not bad, but feels like the biscuit-to-chocolate ratio is a bit too heavy towards the biscuit end – needs more chocolate!
I Still Hide to Smoke is set in 1995 in the middle of Algeria’s Black Decade – the civil war fought between the government and Islamist groups after a failed attempt at a free election in 1992. The film is set inside a hammam (a public bathhouse) as a setting where women from all sides of society – secular, religious, ex-pats who had spent time living in France, the poor, the young and the elderly can talk openly about their lives and the war surrounding them.
The movie has been banned by the government in Algeria, partly due to the nudity (though it’s non-sexual, it’s a bathhouse after all) and partly because it holds no punches about women’s sexuality in a male-dominated society or about the Islamic fundamentalism that was fuelling the civil war of the time. The movie hit a nerve – the director, Rayhana, has faced attempts on her life over this film.
There’s a claustrophobic rage simmering in this movie as the sub-plots ping against each other and the violence of the streets intrudes into the bathhouse. It’s definitely worth a watch for a sense of both Algeria back then and now, especially as many of the issues raised in this movie are still evolving.
There’s an Algerian restaurant not too far from my house here in Ottawa – Idriss Mediterranean – that makes all kinds of traditional Algerian dishes. There’s a lot to choose from, so I figured I’d go for gold with a big plate of rechta. Rechta is a pasta dish made with a specific type of noodle – kind of like a wider angel hair. It’s served with chicken, turnips, chickpeas, and lightly spiced with cinnamon or ras el hanout.
Wow, this is a gorgeous spread! Where do I begin? The chicken is BBQ’d to perfection, and the rechta pasta is just perfectly al dente and chewy – they’ve included an onion broth to pour over the noodles, which really makes it sing. I’m a big turnip fan, so I may have eaten all of those first. The whole dish has a light spicing of cinnamon, maybe allspice as well?
I also ordered on the side a couple boreks – these Algerian ones are more like meat-filled spring rolls than the puff pastry-based Israeli bourekas I tried a few months ago, but they’re both part of the same family of snacks from across the Mediterranean. These ones were hot out of the pan – I got two chicken and one beef (one of them may or may not have been eaten in the car). Lightly spiced meat with a tangy feta-like cheese.
Washed it down with a N’Gaous orange drink – it’s orange and apricot, and halfway between a pop and a juice – a lot like an Orangina (which I just learned also originated in Algeria!)
This is quite the spread, I’ll be picking at the leftovers for days. Between the good quality of the food and the really nice staff, I’m definitely going to go back to Idriss to try some more dishes!