A quick peek at Algeria

Last November, I joined L’Assocation Découverte Terres Lointaines, and wrote about it here.  This month, I’m really involved, up to the neck, because next week, at the library in Lavelenet, we’re taking over, and bringing Algeria to town. More later, then. But for now, have a look at some of our more relaxing moments during our preparations.

Were from England, Brazil, Algeria: but the clothes are all from Algeria

On Friday afternoon, Nadia invited us round and got out a tantalising bundle of her traditional Algerian clothes, many dating from the time of her wedding, for us to try on ahead of next week. Here’s what some of us eventually chose, after we’d struggled in and out of dresses each prettier than the last, elaborately embroidered, beaded and sequinned.  Just as well you can’t see us pirouetting around our workaday tee shirts and trousers discarded on the floor.

Before that, we’d been busy baking, selecting recipes to make for some of next week’s sessions.  Here’s my favourite, Basbousa.  Like most recipes from the area, quantities are expressed in volume rather than weight.


  • 2 cups fine semolina
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup water
  • about 20 blanched split almonds
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Tablespoon of orange flower water or the juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease a rectangular cake tin, about 8” x 12”.

Sieve together the semolina, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Stir in the eggs with a little semolina to prevent curdling. Mix in ½ cup of water. Stir the sifted semolina in and beat until you have a smooth batter. Pour into the prepared cake tin. Score diagonal lines across the top of the cake creating diamond shapes. Place an almond in each diamond. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake is firm and golden.

Meanwhile place the caster sugar in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then add the orange flower water or juice of the lemon and bring to the boil. Boil for about 10 minutes or until syrupy.

When the cake is removed from the oven, gently spoon the syrup over it. You may not need all the syrup: stop spooning when the cake has absorbed all it can. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out and serving sliced into diamonds.

When I tested the recipe at home, I had no orange flower water, so used lemon juice.  Nadia said it wasn’t traditional…..but she liked it anyway.  It’s sweet, simple, and keeps well.  Worth having in the cake tin.

Nadia serves mint tea the traditional way, from this elegant pot in small decorated glasses

2 thoughts on “A quick peek at Algeria”

  1. Tout d’abord BRAVO et MERCI Margaret, pour tous ces articles, ces impressions, des découvertes.
    Je suis obligée de traduire les textes en français pour pouvoir les lire… et souvent la traduction proposée donne des phrases et des formules plutôt amusantes !
    Bien sûr je fais partie de l’Association “Découverte Terres Lointaines”, j’en suis la fondatrice, et je suis très heureuse d’être entourée de femmes si différentes et d’origines si diverses, c’est ce qui fait l’originalité et la force de notre Association… toute petite… toute modeste… mais si dynamique et joyeuse, malgré certaines fois la grosse charge de travail que nous exécutons… bénévolement.
    Chaque membre enrichit notre groupe et nos actions de son vécu, de son origine et de ses goûts différents des autres membres et tellement complémentaires.
    Le bénévolat et l’associatif sont des lieux et des moyens d’échanges, de partages, de découvertes et de liens sociaux, surtout dans les régions économiquement touchées par la désertion des jeunes, le vieillissement de la population ,le chômage, l’isolement, et les politiques protectionnistes et fermées à l’extérieur, aux nouveautés, au partage !
    MERCI Margaret pour “ce brin d’exotisme” que tu nous apportes.


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