The North African Jewish cuisines of Morocco, Tunisia and Libya are influenced not only by Jewish traditions, but also the Mediterranean and Arabic cultures that surround them. Meals are often centered around vegetables or fish and couscous, and spiced with aromatic spices like turmeric, ginger, hot peppers, cinnamon, paprika, saffron, caraway and cumin.
My Jewish Learning’s article on North African Cuisine covers the specific culinary traditions of Jews from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. Morocco, for example, is known for beautifully spiced dishes served over couscous, which might be accented with spicy harissa. Tangiers, a city in Northern Morocco, is different in that it’s more heavily influenced by Spain, with its fish, garlic, onion and tomato dishes. Tunisian Jewish food is stunningly diverse –a melting pot of Spanish, Italian, French and Turkish traditions. Similarly, Libyan Jewish cuisine is the result of an exchange of ingredients and ideas that took place between Libya and Italy.
A hearty Shabbat stew, slow-cooked and ready to serve on Saturday, is a tradition that these distinct cuisines have in common, though it goes by many names. Moroccan Dafina, below, is a great place to start!
Enjoy the flavors of North African Jewish cuisine by trying one or many of the recipes below:
Shabbat Recipe: Dafina, Slow-Cooked Moroccan Stew
Moroccan Fish and Crispy Rice Cake with Saffron Crust
Moroccan Spinach Pie
Mayim’s Moroccan Salad
Bamia (Okra) with Tomatoes
Shakshuka with Spinach and Lamb Meatballs
Tunisian Spiced Squash Soup
Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate Sauce
Lamb Tzimmes for Passover
Lemon and Herb Roast Potatoes with Harissa Mayo
Debla: Purim Roses
Pronounced: PUR-im, the Feast of Lots, Origin: Hebrew, a joyous holiday that recounts the saving of the Jews from a threatened massacre during the Persian period.
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.