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Berkoukés B'lham | Large hand rolled Algerian couscous with lamb and apricot




بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
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The temperature in my area dropped to very bone chilling 10°C. While that's not too bad for many parts of the world, for the Algerian coast it's cold. I froze most of the day, nosing runny and I think I'm even coming down with a cold. I'm not against cold weather. I spent half my life living in cold climates. Each season has some ascepts that I love and appreciate, but Algeria stays usually mild most of the year where. We don't even need the heater on. But last night and today, we were definitely cold enough and we turned on the heater.

There are a few things about cold weather that I do love. Having reason to turn on the oven and bake something. The double win of the feeling extra comfy and warm Pashmina Cashmere scarf and thick woolen socks. And lastly stew. There is something incredibly comforting about sitting down at the table with a giant bowl of steaming stew and a crusty loaf of bread. 


Berkoukés, also called Barkoukch, Aïche, or Abazine is a hand rolled large grained couscous, known throughout Algeria and cooked in different ways, from in a rich white sauce, very spicy red sauce or even a rice pudding like rich creamy milk. M'hamsa is a smaller version of Berkoukés that's commonly known as the Italian name acini di pepe. We also find that couscous Middle East under the name Moughrabiya, probably due to its North African origin. 

Bekoukés in a slightly spicy red sauce is mostly consumed by the winter cold weather in  most Algerian households, including my own. The base of this dish pretty much the same, with some slightly different according to which meat you choose to use. Berkoukés can be made with beef, lamb, or chicken, and in Kabylia they often add a dried meat called Quedid to enchance the rich earthy flavors of this dish. In fact, like all rustic dishes, it uses traditional preserves prepared in advance by the farmers to face the cold of winter!


P.S. If you're looking for more warming winter dishes ... just click here! 



Bekoukés is REAL comfort food for Algerians. I've heard many stories from my husband about his mom's Berkoukés and all the wonderful memories surrounding it. 

Today, I made Berkoukés for my family using some lamb rib chops I hadn't used from Eid al Adha's sacrifical sheep. I added a handful of dried apricots. A little something I learned from my late mother-n-law
. The apricots give a slight earthy sweetness that goes nicely with the lamb and spices. I would recommend making this addition. 

Traditionally, bekoukés is partially steamed in a couscousier then added to the meat sauce to cook further. Personally, I find cooking the berkoukés in the sauce along with the meat imparts a much better taste with less steps. LLess work in the kitchen is always a good thing. If you want to go traditional, simply steam the berkoukés in a couscousier or steam insert until al dente - same way you steam couscous, then add into the sauce. Berkoukés can be as dry or saucey, depending on your taste. Personally, I like mine to have some sauce to it. Nothing is worse to me then a dry pasta. If you like it with more liquid like a soup, there's a soup using Berkoukés I'll be sharing later on. So stay tuned!

On this really cold this was delicious. It also re-heated well the next day served alone in a bowl with crusty bread pretty good!

 { BERKOUKÉS B'LHAM }


This delicious winter Algerian dish made with hand-rolled large grained couscous that gets its flavor from melt-in-your mouth tender lamb, fragant spices and sweet dried apricots.

EQUIPMENT

cutting board, chef's knife, vegetable peeler, Dutch oven



YIELD: 6 servings
PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOK TIME: 40 - 45 mins


  • 500g package of Berkoukés ۞
  • 250g lamb rib chops
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 carrot, diced medium
  • 1 courgette, diced medium
  • handful (about 6) dried apricots
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • Harissa or dersa (or any hot pepper paste) to taste
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Generous handful or two of green peas
  • Handful of precooked chickpeas
  • olive oil/oil/smen
  •  salt/ black pepper

BROWN the lamb rib chops in oil. Once browned removed and add in the aromatics - onions, garlic, carrots to sauté.

PUSH all these ingredients to one side of your pot, add in the tomato paste. Caramelize the tomato paste for a minute or two.
Then add in the water - about 2.5L 

ADD back the meat into the pot, and also the hot pepper, spices, bay leaf, dried apricots and chickpeas. 

BRING to boil, then lower the heat to a low simmer. Cook covered until the meat is tender.

ONCE the meat is cooked tender, add in the  berkoukes, sweet peas and  courgettes to cook for an additional 15- 20 minutes, until the berkoukés is tender.  The berkouks generally will cook in about 15m, but keep a watchful eye on it, as it can easily soak up all the broth then burn. Do not hesitate to stir frequently or add more water if needed. 

WHEN the berkoukes is quite tender, not al-dente! - remove the thyme. The apricots should be completely disolved into the sauce leaving a hint of earthy sweetness. There should still little thickened broth or really sauce. If you find the sauce is too dry, just add more water and stir.



Ladle into bowls, drizzle (generously) with extra virgin olive oil and serve hot. Berkoukés is usually served also with additional harissa or chargrilled hot pepper. And if you're Algerian some bread on the side! And if you want to go traditional eat with olive or lemon wood spoons. 


Subsitution
Most likely unless you live in North Africa you won't be able to buy Berkoukés and hand rolling it yourself is quite tiresome. Italian acini di pepe or Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous is a good subsitution.

    CATEGORIES: WINTER, ALGERIAN SAVORY

    SOURCE: MY LATE MOTHER-N-LAW


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      2 comments:

      1. Hello for the first time from south of Sydney in Australia, at the moment home of heatwaves of 4-5 days or more of 40-43 C as we head towards end of summer [as my min winter weather here is - 2 C, 10 C is cold for me too :) !]. Loved your recipe which I'll copy faithfully when days a little cooler, [with Israeli couscous I am afraid] to try and replicate your tastes. Love the couscous and chickpeas together! Thanks!!

        ReplyDelete
      2. Hello Eha, Thank you for stopping by and commenting. It still boggles my mind how different the climates are in the world - here it is slightly windy and cool, to the north of us it's freezing and where you are it's a heat wave! Gotta appreciate the creation (of God).
        This dish, yes it can be made with Israeli couscous or even the Italian pasta acni de pipi - with all of these work just fine as far as taste. :D Have a great day!

        ReplyDelete

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