Chakhchoukha (Algeria) + Pita
September 14, 2012 § 2 Comments
J: Continuing (slowly) along our culinary voyage around the world, we next hit Algeria. As has been the case with many of these countries, I really had very little idea of what Algerian food looked like, or what a “classic” Algerian dish might consist of. This stew-type meal turned out to be quite delicious and comfort-food-y — I suspect it would make a great warming meal on a cold winter night. The original recipe included chicken, but as we are trying to be a little more vegetarian (accepting that we won’t be able to get around meat in many of these international dishes), we substituted potatoes for the chicken, and it still turned out really well.
Don’t confuse this with shakshuka, which we have also posted on this blog. That is Israeli, and consists primarily of eggs and tomato sauce. It is also delicious, but very different from Algerian chakhchoukha, despite the similarity of the names (and the oddness of having two different dishes that share such a bizarre name).
I also made a naan/pita-type bread with this, since the recipe called for flatbread. If you are so inclined, the recipe is here; I think we followed it pretty closely, though we substituted whole wheat flour for about half of the regular flour, as we tend to do in most bread recipes. I’ll include some photos at the end of this post so you can see what the process looks like, but it’s not hard!
Now, the real recipe.
(tweaked a bit from recipe found here)
3-4 large baking potatoes, cut into roughly bite-size pieces
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ras el hanout spice mix
4 medium carrots, cut into rounds
2 medium zucchinis, cut into half-rounds
1 parsnip, cut into roughly bite-sized pieces
1 large green chili, minced-ish (optional, but obviously we included it)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 14oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pinch dried mint (we did not use this but you should if you have mint on hand!)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes (recipe instructs to blend so it is a puree, but… we were lazy and did not)
6ish c water
Ras el Hanout
Ras el hanout is a spice mix, similar in concept to garam masala or Chinese five spice. Also similarly to these other two, the exact ingredients can vary somewhat freely based on what you have in your spice rack, what your tastes are, etc. Common spices include:
Feel free to do a Google search, compare recipes you find out there, and make your own blend.
Okay, on to the chakhchoukha itself. It’s really not that complicated once you have all your ingredients chopped up.
Heat up some olive oil in a large pot, and add the potatoes, onions, garlic, and ras el hanout. Stir so that the spices get evenly distributed.
Let this go for about 7 minutes, stirring periodically, and then add the rest of the veggies (carrots, parsnip, zucchini, chili), as well as some salt and pepper to taste. Add enough water to just cover the vegetables — we put 6 cups in the recipe, but this is a rough guideline.
Bring the water up to a simmer, and cook for 20ish minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and mint, if you’re using it. If you feel like the stew needs any more water, go for it; otherwise, let it cook for another 15 minutes or so.
Side note: The cooking times here are greatly reduced from the ones in the original recipe. This is because they used meat, and we did not, so it didn’t take our potatoes anywhere near as long to get tender as it might take chicken or lamb to fully cook. Be sure to adjust if you decide to use meat.
Test to be sure everything is cooked through (especially carrots and potatoes), and then spoon up the stew into large bowls, with some flatbread on the side.
And, if you’re interested in making the pita bread to go with it, here are some photos to help you along (link to the recipe is near the top of the post).
After it rises, split it into balls:
Then use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch out each ball of dough into a flatbread/pita/naan-ish shape. I actually found that using my hands was quite sufficient, so if you’re patient enough, go for it.
We baked these on our pizza stone, and sprinkled some corn meal on its surface so they wouldn’t stick. They turned out beautifully, but I’m sure that if you just use a baking sheet instead (flour it if it’s NOT non-stick to avoid unfortunate situations), you’ll also get great results!