The cuisine of Africa is relatively unfamiliar in most of the U.S. But with these exquisite African recipes, it's time for you to try something new.See Popular African Cuisine Recipes
For the regal -- and expensive -- pork crown roast, F&W Test Kitchen Associate Melissa Rubel Jacobson replaced the run-of-the-mill garlic-herb coating with a smoky harissa version. "I love the way it turns from a paste to a crispy crust," she says.
A staple of the Moroccan kitchen, preserved lemons have a soft, silky-smooth texture and a salty, pickled taste. The only hard thing about making them is waiting for them to cure, which takes about four weeks. But they're worth it. I make these in a wide-mouthed glass jar that has a glass lid. This way, it's easy to pack the lemons into the jar and no metal comes in contact with the lemon juice and salt. Use the preserved lemons in, or see the Serving Suggestions, below.
Paula Wolfert learned a dish called chaariya medfouna from a private cook named Karima. "Chaariya means noodles," Wolfert says. "Medfoun means a surprise or something hidden." Here, steamed noodles cover tender chunks of lamb spiced with cumin.
The Moroccan flavors in these burgers -- shaped into ovals instead of the usual rounds -- include cumin, harissa, and garlic. The sauce: a delectable mix of mayonnaise, caraway seeds, and more harissa.
Butcher-shop owner Tanya Cauthen likes flavoring supremely tender braised lamb with a North African spice blend that includes cumin and fennel seeds. Lamb shanks are great for serving at dinner parties, since they look so dramatic, but lamb stew meat -- cut from the shoulder or the leg -- is equally delicious. Or, for a less gamey flavor, substitute beef short ribs.
When making most stews, cooks typically brown the meat before braising it; here, Ethan Stowell skips that step, which simplifies the Moroccan recipe and gives the lamb a buttery, melt-in-the-mouth texture. The dish is vibrantly flavored with ginger, cumin, coriander, olives, and lemon; the broth is delicious over couscous.
This classic couscous is loaded with slow-cooked lamb and poached vegetables, and spiced with generous amounts of cumin. Generally speaking, couscous isn't really spicy (though harissa, the traditional, fiery chile-garlic North African condiment, can add a bit of a bite), which means it can partner well with a rich, firmly structured red wine such as Merlot.
When Mourad Lahlou first came to the U.S. from Morocco to study economics, he taught himself to cook because he was too broke to eat out. He had never heard of famed Mediterranean-food writer Paula Wolfert until she walked into his first Bay Area restaurant, Kasbah, over 10 years ago. "She knew more about my food than I did," says Lahlou. He then began using her 1973 cookbook, Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, to help him make recipes like this spiced shrimp stew; the dish is on his menu at Aziza in San Francisco.
Warm Middle Eastern spices and fresh mint make this pilaf a great accompaniment to lamb roasts or chops, seared scallops, roast chicken, or sausages. Serve the couscous loose, or for a more formal presentation, you can make timbales by packing the couscous into ramekins and unmolding them onto your serving plates.
Spices, dried apricots, and dates meld flavors for this exotic spicy-sweet stew that cooks slowly in a crockery cooker.
When I make this for picnics, I prepare it the night before, refrigerate it, and serve it cool the next day.
Paula Wolfert visited the kitchens of Dar Yacout, where the cooks still use charcoal fires to make dishes like lush and smoky roasted-eggplant salad.
Harissa is a spicy North African sauce or paste made of ground dried chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices like coriander, caraway, and cumin. Primarily Tunisian, harissa is also used in Moroccan, Algerian, and Libyan cooking. Ranging in heat from mild to scorching hot, harissa is used as both a condiment and an ingredient that's stirred into couscous, tagines (stews), soups, and pastas. Look for harissa in tubes, cans, or jars at well-stocked grocery stores and specialty markets. Or try your hand at making a homemade batch, using this recipe.
"I add lemon confit to so many dishes -- from broiled fish to pork and beans," says Eric Ripert of New York City's Le Bernardin. He blends his lemon confit with butter to add a pleasantly pungent flavor to broiled snapper. Before broiling, he dots some of the lemon butter on the fish, then serves more lemon butter on the side. Lemon confit can be refrigerated for several months, but if you don't want to make your own, jarred Moroccan preserved lemons are a fine substitute.
Studded with flavor, this side dish will make a simple sauteed chicken breast special. To reheat, put the couscous in a heatproof serving dish, cover with foil, and put in a 350 degrees F oven until heated through, about 15 min.
To many Americans, couscous refers to the tiny pearls of semolina we've come to know and love. But in Morocco , it is also the proper name for a time-honored stew, rich with vegetables and the flavors--saffron, cinnamon, turmeric--of North Africa . This is a terrific, relaxed party dish--easy to make, fun to eat and meant for a gathering.