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Couscous à Lavande, Taâm Hâlhal | Algerian Lavendar Scented Couscous

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

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 There's a tradition here in Algeria around the foothills of the Atlas Mountains near the city of Blida. Women in the spring and early summer months can be seen collecting lavender. Lavender is a much-loved herb that is a part of local seasonal practices. The picking of wild lavender reminds all of the harmony we have with nature. Eating of one famous dish, called "Hammama Blidéen" or "Taâm Hâlhal" is one of luxury and nostalgia that people of the north living near these ancient wild fields still enjoy today.

This dish gets its name "Hammama" (meaning sauna bath) from the sweating effect after its consumption. It's quite an interesting phenomenon. It's  a fusion of the expertise of the Berber and Andalusian kitchen. The exact composition of the herb bouquet for the Hammama differs from a cook to another. Some cooks just use the wild lavender while others like to add other herbs in like wild thyme and oregano. There seems be several versions out, according to the virtues the cook wishes to draw out. Today, I'm showing you a version I learned from my husban's aunt Kheira. 😃

The appearance of wild lavender, in Algeria symbolizing tradition, end of the winter chill and the arrival of spring's bounty. The eating of this couscous is like a spring cleaning of the Algerian stomach. It's said to bring immunity of the colds and flu of the colder months. I don't have any concrete evidence to share but lavender's medicinal use has been documented for centuries.

Traditionally, this dish is made by rolling fine and medium grained semolina with steamed lavender buds, but I'm taking a shortcut ... making this dish more accessible for home cooks and using store bought couscous - not rolling my own. I've added less lavender than most Algerian cooks would since I don't like to overpower the subtleness of this herb. In my opinion, adding too much lavender makes you feel like you're eating perfume. 

For this recipe, you can use fresh or dried lavender. We use the variety of lavender called Spanish levander (L. stoechas), but if you can't find that an English or French variety is fine.

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So let's get started with the recipe.



beverages | yields about 4 cups

1 kg -2 lb medium grain couscous
15g -  ½ cup fresh lavender buds (hâl'hal in Derdja) OR about 3 tsp dried culinary grade lavender
‣ 60 ml - ¼ cup fruity extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
‣ 2 liters - 2quarts water
 ‣ ½ tsp salt
‣ powdered sugar or honey to taste (optional)

Wash the lavendar well. And then remove the buds from the stems. Place the couscous in a gass'âa or large bowl. Rub the grains of couscous with half the olive oil. Add in some salt and mix.  Place the lavendar buds in a food processor (robo) and mix until they are ground fine.

Add the water to the couscous to cover it. Allow to rest until the water is absorbed. If after 10 minutes, all of the water isn't absorbed, don't worry it's fine. Just drain off the water. As you're waiting, fill your couscousier with water. And place it on the fire.

Once the water is boiling, you can spoon the couscous into the couscousier.  Now you can either steam the couscous with lavender or steam it separately. Allow the couscous to steam for about 10 minutes. Then check it.

Turn the couscous out into the gass'âa or a larger bowl and fork to separate the grains. Add back into the couscousier for an additional steam of 10 minutes.

Repear the process once more. The couscous should be very light and fluffy after the third steaming.

Mix the couscous with the lavender well. Add sugar or honey to your liking.

    ⇝ Leftovers can be stored in a food safe container for up to 3 days. This dish isn't freezable. 

    ⇝ Adding some vanilla to the couscous as you steam it is a delightful variation.

    ⇝ You can alternatively, use other sweeteners such as Stevia, maple syrup, coconut sugar or even cane sugar.

    ⇝ If you're unable to obtain wild lavender, also called Spanish lavender, you can use French or English varieties.



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        This couscous is usually enjoyed with a tall cold glass of l'ben (buttermilk. This coconut milk would go nicely if you're on a non-dairy or vegan diet.

        WHAT food reminds you of spring? 


        1 comment:

        1. Salaam alalykum,
          Oh wow this reminds my childhood. I miss Algérie! Saha for sharing this! samia


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