Tunisian Cuisine and Recipes
Tunisian Recipes, Food and Cooking
by Country - March 2006
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.
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.
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.