The MENA Cooking Club celebrates the food of the Middle East and North Africa, and this month we’re cooking Algerian food! I chose to bake khobz eddar, or “house bread.”
You can learn so much about a country from its folklore, so I spent some time reading about the stories from Algeria. Lots of tales trace back to the Kabyle people, a Berber group from the northern side. For the most part, the stories are about clever animals playing tricks and getting stuff done, but I was most excited to see that there is an Algerian Snow White story, similar to the Grimms version those of us from the West are more familiar with, but with some distinct Algerian flavor.
Illustration for Snow White by Yvonne Gilbert.
It’s very common in Algeria to bake bread at home to accompany meals, so certainly little Snow White regularly baked khobz eddar for the seven ogres! I made some to accompany my Algerian meal, which included a white bean stew and Teal Tadjine’s lovely garlicky meatballs.
Adapted from La Petit Panière
- 1 packet yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup warm milk
- 200 grams semolina flour
- 200 grams all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk for the brush
- nigella seeds for garnish
In a mixing bowl, mix yeast, sugar and warm milk and set aside until foamy, about five minutes.
In another bowl whisk together flours, and salt. Lightly beat the egg and combine with to the yeast and milk mixture. Gradually add the flours to the yeast mixture until a sticky dough forms (you may not use all flour). Knead for 10 minutes on a floured counter, adding a little flour if the dough gets too stick. Roll into a ball and place in a clean, greased bowl to rise, covered, for one hour.
Knead the dough again for about 10 minutes. Grease a 9 inch cake pan. Flatten and spreadthe dough with your hands into a nine inch circle, and place in the pan. Brush with egg yolk, sprinkle with nigella seeds and slice the top into 8 wedges. Cover and let rise for another hour.
Heat oven to 400° Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Cool, slice, and serve!
Story time! This is a little long and winding, but there are some interesting details – the wicked woman is the girl’s own mother, the moon is an oracle, tricks with henna, and death from needles. Oh yeah, and ogres!
More Beautiful than the Moon
A beautiful and vain woman asked the moon each night “Is there anyone more beautiful than me?” to which the moon responded “I am pretty and you are pretty, but no one is prettier than you!”
The woman had a child, a girl, who grew very lovely. One night when the girl was still very young, when asked the moon responded, “I am pretty and you are pretty, but the girl is prettier than everyone.” The woman was jealous and asked the moon if she should kill the girl. The moon allowed her to wait until the girl grew older, learned to cook and sew, then told the woman “now she is old enough to marry and have children; kill her or I will kill you!”
The woman paid a butcher in jewels to take her daughter to the forest and kill her, returning with a flask of her blood that she could drink. The butcher tried, but could not bring himself to kill the beautiful girl, so he hid her in a cave.
She fell asleep, and when she awoke she was surrounded by seven ogres. They made her their sister, and she stayed with them and kept their house.
Meanwhile the woman revisited the moon, who told her her daughter was alive still, so she was killed.
The ogres fell in love with the girl and all wished to marry her. To decide which one she would marry, she put henna on their hands, covered them in cloth, and told them she would marry the one whose henna turned the reddest. In the morning, none of the ogres’ hands were red at all, as she had tricked them by using another herb, so she remained unmarried as their sister.
One day when the ogres were out, the girl was visited by an ogress who put seven needles in her head, so that when the ogres returned they thought she had died. They put her body on a horse and led her through the forest, where they came upon a prince who was hunting. He fell in love with the beautiful dead girl, but his father the king insisted she be buried; however, the undertaker discovered the needles and removed them and she awoke. She was married to the prince and they had a son.
The son grew, and asked his mother about her family. She took him to see the seven ogres, who thought she had died, and embraced her with happiness. They visited the house of the ogress that had stuck her with needles and set her on fire. They discovered the ogress had seven daughters, to which the ogres were married, and lived happily ever after with the girl and her prince.
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