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Tunisian Cuisine

A delicious and spicy cuisine

By Rasma RaistersPublished 4 years ago 7 min read

The people of Tunisia, a country in North Africa. enjoy all kinds of food including lamb, couscous dishes, fish and traditional pastry dishes. Under the influence of Mediterranean cultures, many dishes include tomatoes, olive oil and fresh bread. The Berbers, ancestors of the Tunisians provided the foundations for the cuisine which is couscous.

Couscous is made from coarsely ground semolina pasta and is combined with a variety of meat and vegetables. Couscous is sometimes combined with various sauces like Harissa, a traditional spicy red pepper sauce made with tomatoes, olive oil, peppers and spices. Spices and peppers play a central role in the cuisine. Most dishes are heavily spiced with seasonings such as bay leaves, cumin, caraway, saffron, cinnamon and mint. Tunisia produces many fine wines, beers, brandies and liquors.

Tunisian appetizers come in all kinds of tastes and flavors. Typically they include olives and olive oil, fresh vegetables, bread and sauces. No Tunisian food is complete without spicy hot Harissa.


Cauliflower Tagine – Heat olive oil in a skillet and add onions. Afterward, add garlic, bell pepper, paprika, Tabil (a Tunisian spice mixture consisting of ground coriander seed, caraway seed, garlic powder, and, chili powder. The term can also refer to coriander by itself. Then include tomato paste and some salt and pepper. Once the pepper softens, sun-dried tomatoes and water are added and again seasoned with salt and pepper and transferred to a baking dish. The cauliflower is boiled until just tender and spread in a baking dish. In a bowl combine bread crumbs and Gruyere cheese and add beaten eggs. This mixture is poured over the cauliflower and covered with foil and baked for 15 minutes then uncovered and baked for 15 minutes more until crisp on top.

Chackchouka – Remove seeds from green peppers and cut them into strips. Slice onions and cut tomatoes in half. Sautee onions and green peppers. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper then add tomatoes and cook until green peppers are tender. Break eggs in a bowl and beat then pour into the pan when scrambled the dish is ready.

Harisa – Mildly hot dried guajillo chili peppers and mild dried Anaheim chili peppers are soaked in tepid water up to an hour. Drained and deseeded. Place in a blender or food processor with garlic, water and olive oil. Process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in caraway, coriander and salt. Store in a jar topped off with olive oil covering the surface. Whenever the paste is used it must again be topped off with olive oil.

Salsa Ninety Nine – Tomatoes are cored and peeled and the seeds and pulp removed. The seeds and pulp are put through a food mill and the tomatoes chopped. In a large pot the milled liquid is boiled with tomato paste added until the liquid is reduced. Then add green peppers, onions, chopped tomatoes, salt, vinegar and brown sugar. In a small bowl dissolve cornstarch in water and add the mixture to the pot. Boil until the vegetables are tender. The mixture is allowed to cool and then placed in sterile containers.

Tunisian Fish Cakes with Spicy Lemon and Paprika Aioli – Mild white fish fillets (such as orange roughly or halibut) are cubed. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. The fish is coarsely ground in a processor. Then add onions, garlic, parsley, cilantro, kosher salt, ground ginger, black pepper, and matzo meal. Once everything is combined add an egg and process until smooth. The mixture is shaped into small cakes and arranged on the sheet. Heat oil in a skillet and the fish cakes are fried until brown and cooked through.

Serve with Spicy Lemon and Paprika Aioli – Mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice, garlic cloves, tomato paste, hot smoked Spanish paprika or Hungarian sweet paprika and cayenne pepper are whisked in a bowl and salt and pepper is added.

Soups in Tunisia usually contain tomatoes or beans and sometimes some sort of meat. They may be served as appetizers or as the main meal and are generally heavily seasoned and spiced.


African Bean Soup – Add margarine to a large stockpot then carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Afterward, add water, black-eyed peas, navy beans, green pepper, salt and crushed red pepper. Everything is cooked until tender then, add salted peanuts, onion powder, and coriander. The soup should be thick.

Bissara – A classic Tunisian soup spiced with harissa. Cook lentil or baby fava beans until tender and then puree. In warm oil cook garlic, add tomato paste, cumin and harissa. Afterward, cook the bean puree, water or broth to a soup consistency and season with salt and pepper. Heat to just below boiling and serve extra harissa on the side.

Chickpea and Lentil Soup – In a pot melt butter and add onion and celery. Cook until vegetables are softened. Stir in ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, pepper and lentils Add water and crushed tomatoes in the thick puree and bring to a boil. This is cooked until the lentils are tender. Then chickpeas are added and stir in cilantro or parsley.

Tunisian Octopus Soup – Sautee onions in olive oil and add garlic, carrots and celery. Then tomato paste and more olive oil and season with salt. Add the cleaned octopus cut into pieces and water just to cover. Bring to a boil and add dried red chilies, caraway, cumin, cayenne, coriander and taste for salt. Cook until the octopus is tender then add bulghur and cilantro during last 20 minutes of cooking.

Tunisian meat dishes are usually made with either beef, lamb, or poultry. Couscous is usually served on the side.

Meat dishes:

Brik Dannouni (Stuffed Lamb Turnovers) – Prepare pastry and set aside. Then shred gruyere cheese in a food processor and chop up the lamb. Cook the lamb with paprika, salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Then stir in egg yolk and shredded cheese.The dough is rolled out and cut into circles. The lamb filling is placed on each circle, folded over and sealed in. The turnovers are then fried golden brown in a skillet.

Couscous with Curried Chicken and Chickpeas – Season boneless chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown. Add onion, curry, cinnamon, and cayenne and sautée. Afterward, add some stock and diced red pepper and zucchini and simmered until tender. Add chickpeas and season with salt. In a separate saucepan boil the couscous. When ready add chopped cilantro and toss. Serve the curried chicken with the couscous.

Tunisian Couscous – In a stewpot brown chopped lamb with onions. Add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes, cumin, black pepper, curry, cayenne, and green peppers. This is all simmered for 15 minutes. Then add butternut squash, turnips, carrot, onion and potatoes, and just covered with water. Cook until meat and vegetables are tender. Serve with couscous and garnish with green onion, parsley and lemons.

Tunisian Meat Pie – Brown onions and ground beef and remove from heat. Mix in mashed potatoes, chopped eggs, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Stir in beaten eggs, blend well. The mixture is then placed into greased round pan or casserole and baked for 45 minutes. Served in wedges.

Tunisian Meatballs – Ground beef is mixed with bread crumbs, parsley, nutmeg, onion powder, salt, pepper, egg and water. Meatballs are formed and fried until golden brown. Steam tomatoes and onion. Make a sauce with chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, parsley, saffron, cinnamon, pepper and tomato juice. Then put the meatballs, steamed tomatoes and onions in a pot in the sauce and simmer for 30 minutes.

The vineyards in the northern region produce Tunisian wines such as Koudiat and Tardu, among others. Many springs produce quality mineral water. People drink many fresh fruit drinks in the summer. There is also the traditional mint tea which is sometimes served with pine kernels.


About the Creator

Rasma Raisters

My passions are writing and creating poetry. I write for several sites online and have four themed blogs on Wordpress. Please follow me on Twitter.

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