The Table Of My Ancestors: Week 6 (North Africa – Libya)

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To read the post that started it all, click here!

This week, I continued discovering my North African ancestry by focusing on Libya, the 4th largest country in all of Africa which is well-known for its beautiful Mediterranean coast (which houses about 90% of the country’s inhabitants) and, just a bit further south, a sparse grassland that gives way to the Sahara desert. I read that Libyan cuisine focuses heavily on olives (and olive oil), an effect left over from the days of Italian colonization.

I had a much easier time finding recipes for Libyan food this week than I had for Algerian cuisine last week. As such, I decided to do both a main dish and a well-known dessert. Both were delicious, and I think I’ll definitely be making them again!

For the main dish, I made One-Pot Pasta with Lamb and Chilies. It required only a handful ingredients (most I already had in my kitchen; I just needed to buy the lamb) and was very simple to make. It starts with a base of onions, carrots, garlic, and chilies fried in olive oil. Then, I added lamb cut up into bite-sized pieces, paprika, tomato paste, and stock. It simmers for about 90 minutes, and then the pasta (I used linguine) is cooked right in the sauce! It was delicious, not overly spicy, and went very well with a glass of good red wine!

The dessert that I chose to make is called Ghraiba, which translates to “stranger” in Arabic (probably because this dessert used to be shipped over from Spain). It is essentially a small shortbread biscuit, only in Libya they are traditionally clove-flavored with a whole clove (or pistachio) pressed in, and they’re served with tea (which is so black and thick in Libya that it’s essentially a syrup). I flavored my dough but used almonds and powdered sugar to top mine so that they’d be a little more of a family-friendly treat (I can just imagine what my kids would say if I tried to get them to eat a whole clove!) I also served some of these to a friend who was visiting, and she loved them.

All in all, cooking my way through Libya was absolutely delicious, and I found a couple of new recipes that will definitely make it into my regular rotation. Next week: Morocco, one of the most zwina (can you tell I’m practicing my Arabic? This Moroccan Arabic phrase literally translates to ‘beautiful.’) countries in the world!

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