Sunday, April 11, 2010

Libya - Cuscus bil-Bosla

Libya is in Northern Africa along the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia. Even though most of its borders are potentially dangerous, and one must be a part of an organized tour when traveling there, it may be tempting for the adventurous traveler. The country has been sheltered under the Mu’ammar Gaddafi for the last thirty years leaving much of it unspoiled. But now it’s opening up, beckoning and alluring like a beautiful oasis in the dessert.

For our Libyan meal I made the country’s national dish, Cuscus bil-Bosla. It is couscous with lamb, chickpeas, tomatoes and potatoes. Julia loved it. She was very excited when I told her we were having couscous. Though we all enjoyed it we each had our own plate. However, it is their tradition in Libya to serve the meal on a common platter and everyone eats by helping themselves to this platter.

Cuscus bil-Bosla

675g couscous
1 TBSP oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP tomato puree
120ml water
1/2 tsp Kammon hoot
3 onions, thinly sliced
2 TBSP butter
5 lamb chops
150g dried chickpeas (I used one can)
2 potatoes, diced
2 green chillies, sliced
1/2 tsp hot chilli, minced
1 TBSP oil
500ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add oil to a large frying pan and cook the meat and onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning the meat half way through.

Whisk the tomato puree into the water then add to the apn, along with the chickpeas and kammon hoot. Bring to a simmer then cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, or until the beans are tender. (I used canned beans so I did not have to simmer for long). Add water as necessary and stir occasionally. Add the diced potatoes and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender.

Add butter to a pan and fry the sliced onions until they turn golden brown. Stir in the chillies and season with salt and pepper. Then add oil and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 3 minuites then remove the pan from the heat and stir-in couscous. Cover the pan and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Arrange the couscous on a serving tray or plate, arrange the lamb chops on top then spoon the chickpea sauce over everything.

Kammon hoot

1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp mint
3 tsp cumin seeds
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds
15 dried red-hot chilies

Cover chilies with hot water and let stand for 15 minutes until soft. Place chilies and remaining ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth using water that the chilies soaked in to thin it. The sauce should have the consistency of thick paste. If you place the paste in a jar and cover with a little bit of oil it will keep for a couple of months in the refrigerator.

I did not put all the spices into the dish because I knew my children would have a hard time eating it otherwise. I also cut the recipe in half and found that there was still too much.

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