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Tunisian Cuisine and Recipes

Tunisian Recipes, Food and Cooking

Cooking by Country - March 2006


Scroll down for Traditional Recipes from Tunisia



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Situated in North Africa, Tunisia is one of the Maghreb countries, the others being Algeria, Libya and Morocco. It has land borders with Algeria and Libya and a long 1,148km coastline on the Mediterranean.

The climate ranges from temperate rainy winters to very hot dry summers but although the interior is stony desert, the southern costal areas are very fertile as are some northern areas which also boast many forests, although these areas are not widely populated.

 Most of her agriculture takes place in the southern costal regions. There are also low mountains in the north-west.



Ancient times, History and Influences on Tunisian Cooking


Tunisian cooking today is a mixture of desert nomad , Arab, early Greek, Turkish, Spanish, and French culinary traditions. The original Tunisians were Berbers, and today they make up around 60% of the population. Archaeological evidence shows that 10,000 years ago these peoples were hunter gatherers who mainly lived in caves.

The introduction of metals from Sicily c 2000 B.C. was possibly the first major influence on the cuisine, especially that of the nomadic tribes whose cooking was limited by the pots and pans which they could carry with them. Although itís obvious that cooking styles began to take shape at this time, it was the Phoenician maritime traders who had the next important effect on the native Berbers when they settled the costal regions c1100 B.C., not least of which was their imparted knowledge of advanced agricultural methods.

Another major influence came by way the Romans in AD 146 when they conquered Carthage and who continued to rule North Africa until they were ousted by Germanic tribesmen from Europe in the fifth century. During this time many Roman veterans settled in the area and the growing  of grain and later olive oil for export to Rome and her deployed forces, became a major factor in the economic base of the region.

Over the centuries Arab, Turkish, Moorish, Spanish and French influences appear in Tunisian culinary  techniques and recipes which have combined to create a vibrant and spicy national cuisine which differs to that of her neighbouring countries.  Of the latter, special mention should be made of the Spanish influence, in particular their introduction of New World produce such as chillies and sweet peppers to the region which is now so prevalent in the cuisine plus the development of egg based cookery.



Current Day Tunisian Cuisine


Not surprisingly, with the long coastline the abundance of freshly caught seafood and fish features heavily in the Tunisian diet. Wheat, in the form of Couscous is a staple and vegetables such as chillies, tomatoes, peppers, aubergine and pumpkins are widely used. Meat in Tunisia such as lamb, veal and goat have a particular flavour due to their grazing on aromatic plants such as thyme and rosemary and the use of spices and herbs prevails throughout the cuisine.

Tunisians have their own version of mezze, a group of vibrant tasting salads collectively called kemia. These are anything from bowls of nuts and olives to spiced octopus or squid, or salads and vegetables either flavoured with chillies and other spices, lemon juice and olive oil or pickled.

A typical meal would begin with a soup followed by a main course which could be anything from roast meats, poultry and of course fish or stewed dishes often accompanied by couscous. Fresh fruits and pastries often end the meal.


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