Updated: Apr 18
Algeria was a little labor-intensive, I'm not going to lie. A lot of browning things in pans, then realizing my pans were too small so I had to move everything else into another pan; a lot of dough making, a lot of individual baby fry cake frying; a lot of individual making of 45+ little Tcharek Msaker, or gazelle horns. But a lot of the best things are labor-intensive and take time. To quote Taylor Swift (if you actually know me, you'd know I love Taylor Swift, like, a lot), "Nothing safe is worth the drive." If we're going to make a beautiful meal from Algeria, let's make every little step of it right.
For all you kids keeping score at home who are also terrible at geography, Algeria is in North Africa. I went to 10 Most Popular Algerian Dishes - TasteAtlas. I ended up making (1) New Message! (epersianfood.com)'s Chakhchoukha (lamb tomato-based stew with veggies) and Tcharek Msaker or Gazelle Horns| Gourmandise Assia (aka small pastries with an almond filling covered in powdered sugar).
So the timeline of how everything was made gets all blurred together. I'm frying off onions to stick some lamb into as the fry dough bread is resting and I'm measuring out ground almonds. Meanwhile, if you listen closely, I've got some Next Food Network Star going on in the background in lieu of music. I haven't taken on a project that's left me bored at all, as you can see:
I'm also trying Ras El Hanout out for the first time! It's a spice mix, like curry, but it ain't curry, y'all. There're a lot more spices you'd find in sweet baked goods - ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and clove. There're also some spices you would not find in sweet baked goods - turmeric, fennel, white pepper, cumin, coriander, and saffron. It smells warm and spicy.
Cooked off the lamb shoulders (shoulda been chops, shoulda been twice as much, but honey, I am doing the best I can here) in some oil 'n' onions. Added some chopped parsnip, turnip, potato, and zucchini (nothing more therapeutic than cutting up some vegetables) and put it all in a pot (originally they were all put in that cast iron skillet...that cast iron skillet overflowed. Hence the rehousing into my big ol' pot).
Meanwhile, I got the dough and the rose water syrup done up for the gazelle horns. (Fun fact: the original recipe called for orange blossom water. Honey, I couldn't find a drop of orange blossom water in all of my hometown. BUT, I found rose water. I ran with it.) Also, some dough for the little semolina cakes. A lotta dough, people. A lotta dough.
Little shot of everyone mid-way through the cooking process:
In the center pic is two doughs and a mixture. I've got a semolina dough to be fried off and a white dough that is almost more of a pastry for the gazelle horns. The brown mixture is almond flour, sugar, rose water, and cinnamon - almost a marzipan mixture. That will stuff my gazelle horns.
It took me a while to handmake and fry off so many little fry cakes, y'all. But then, it tasted real good, because fry bread always does!
I ate dinner before I assembled the gazelle horns because man, it was like 10 PM or something when I finished cooking this soup, lol. I was hungry.
The chakhchoukha reminded me a lot of a ground beef stew my mom would make growing up. It was heavy on tomato flavor, full of soft vegetables and a little chewy lamb. The fry bread was dense and held up against the savory broth. It was far more familiar and therefore more comforting to me than I thought it would be.
The gazelle horns were a labor of love, y'all. Made a thin circle of pastry, rolled out some not!marzipan into a tub and put that on there; rolled the rough around the not!marzipan and shaped it as a crescent moon.
(I filled the last three with orange marmalade because I ran outta filling.)
They were baked off; then, piping hot, put in that rose water syrup I'd made earlier, then immediately rolled in powdered sugar (that liquid syrup in powdered sugar made the later ones getting covered in little crunchy pieces of powdered sugar. That is a weird sentence, guys.)
THESE GAZELLE HORNS ARE SO GOOD!!! They're crunchy, crispy, falling apart; they're sweet, lightly tasting of almond and rose; they're rich and terrible for you and I LOVE THEM.
Day made: 1/20/2022, Thursday
Day post made: 2/3/2022, Thursday (I'm trying, y'all)
Would I make this meal again? 8/10, I liked the chakhchoukha, but the semolina cakes are better fresh, and I have a LOT of leftovers; will totally make those gazelle horns again - but next time, I'm not making so many. Those were labor-intensive and hand-made, y'all.