Each culinary region in Africa has its own distinctive, unapologetically authentic flavour. While each region on the continent is protective of its particular tastes and recipes, variations of the same dish are generally prepared within the same area on the continent. There is no greater evidence of this than the ongoing debate about who makes better Jollof rice: Ghanaians or Nigerians? In North Africa, which is made up of diverse countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara, you can enjoy cuisine that is a combination of traditional ingredients and cultural influences. The culinary tradition is always rich in colour and flavour.
Ingredients brought into the region by traders and migrants have heavily influenced the foods of North Africa. Variety, diversity and depth are added to a selection of herbs and spices. Arabs introduced spices such as saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Turks brought in sweet pastries and other baked goods. Wheat and its by-product semolina were introduced early on, but the nomadic Berbers adapted semolina into couscous. Today, couscous is a staple in North Africa and enjoyed all over the world.
The Mediterranean is a stone’s throw away from North Africa, which means olives and olive oil have become integral to the cooking process. Seafood, goat, lamb, beef, dates, almonds, vegetables and fruit are all staple foods on the North African menu.
The regional nuances within North Africa create an interesting gastronomic blend. In Tunisia, turmeric, dried chilli and mint are common ways to create spicy and hot dishes. In Egypt, stews are rich in vegetables while, in Libya, its history as an Italian colony means tomato-based dishes are more common.
Although desserts aren’t a must-eat after every meal, North African menus boast a host of tasty, rich and sweet desserts. These can range from pastries and puddings drenched in honey syrup, to fruit salads (dates and figs are a favourite) and biscuits, sweet teas and spiced coffees.
With its unique tastes and diverse offering, there is definitely something for everyone to enjoy when indulging in cuisine from North Africa.