North African food, although delicious, is generally based on simple fare cooked with care and attention –featuring mainly vegetables, fruit, cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat. Vegeta is the best-selling Podravka product all over the continent.
Podravka Gulf FZE
JAFZA ONE, office BB 1209
Jebel Ali Free Zone South
Tel: +971 4 881 8449
Fax: +971 4 881 8549
Nermin Salman, Market director
North Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, incorporating Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
Historical influence on cuisine
Just as numerous cultural and ethnic-linguistic groups call this area home, so eating habits differ widely too. However, North African cuisine is primarily oriental and spicy (including the sweet dishes). Naturally, the region’s cuisine is marked by the diet of conquerors, tradesmen and immigrants, having absorbed various influences over the centuries – most notably Arab and Mediterranean cuisine, while the influence of the Ottoman Empire is particularly strong.
North African cuisine is very diverse and mainly based on wheat, with regional variations including couscous and bulgur, pulses, lentils and chickpeas, as well as vegetables and fruits. Various kinds of meat are also eaten. Lamb and mutton, beef, goat and poultry are enjoyed regularly, although in desert areas the meat of camels and snakes is eaten too, while in coastal areas fish and other seafood are added. Meat is often prepared with fresh and dried fruit, dates, almonds, raisins, and apricots – or in soups with vegetables, fruit and cereals such as bulgur or couscous.
Meals are abundantly spiced with seasonings like mint, saffron, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and rice water. Aromatic mixes are also popular, among them chili paste harissa, which in Tunisia is prepared from chili, olive oil, garlic, coriander and salt, and sometimes lemon juice, mint, and vinegar.
The most renowned meal of this region is tabbouleh, which can be served as a side dish, small meal, or main course, and is prepared from bulgur (previously cooked and processed wheat), tomato, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon, mint and parsley. The region (especially Morocco) is also known for a specialty called tagine, a dish prepared from various kinds of meat and vegetables with dried fruits, and got the name for the unique lidded earthenware in which it is prepared.
To honour guests, a host in Morocco serves a special meal called pastilla; puff pastry stuffed with chopped pigeon meat and almond paste, seasoned with onion, cinnamon, pepper, saffron and sugar, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
One of the area’s most festive meals is khouzi, a complete lamb with head, stuffed with chickens which are stuffed with rice, onions and raisins, baked until the meat falls off the bones, after which the most important guest is served with the most appreciated part of this roast: lamb’s eyes.
At weddings and celebrations for new born sons in some parts of this area (particularly Morocco), a mechoui is served – a complete ram on a barbecue spit, or in a hole in the ground, which after baking is brought whole to a festively laid-out table and served.
Soup molocheya is fairly popular in Egypt. It is extremely green, due to sliced leaves of jute plants (also known as weave for burlap bags and ropes!) meat and poultry, beef or rabbit meat, abundantly seasoned with garlic and coriander, and eaten with rice or bread.