When I think of Tunisian food like this Tunisian stew, I am automatically brought to thoughts of cumin, turmeric, coriander and paprika in sauces brimming with garlic, chilies and tomato all served over a tasty plate of couscous.
Truth is, I’ve never been to Tunisia. The closest place to it was Tanger after a short stopover after a memorable trip to Gilbarater – one that ended in my aunt and I hiking the Rock of Gibraltar and getting jumped (literally!) by a gang of Barbary Macaques (also know as barbary ape, a species of tailless monkeys). PEOPLE — when there is a sign that says “don’t feed wild animals”, it’s there for a reason! Yes, thanks to a couple of “keen-to-observe-wildlife-close-up” French tourists who thought it was a brilliant idea to stop le auto to feed an apple to a monkey (a BIG monkey). Quickly enough that monkey sent out his spider-signal to all his nearby monkey friends and within minutes they had about 10 monkeys on and around their car. This of course made them very nervous, so they jumped back in and drove off in a scurry.
Ooh la la…look more tourists. Tourists with bags, even better. Must be food in there. That was us. Soon enough we were surrounded. We… the ones on foot… with nowhere to go. What happened next? We tried to walk away… tried being the operative word here. The ringleader jumped on my back! O M G ! With his arms wrapped around my shoulders I could actually see his furry head at the side of my face, bearing teeth and all. My aunt started swinging her bag at him. That’s when he bared his teeth. Giant teeth. In that moment, the only thing that came to mind was him biting into my neck (a.k.a. here comes bleeding to death!)… and rabies (if I survived). Yeah, monkey on your back… not so easy to get rid of. Heh heh. So I threw my bag and he went for it. They all went for it. Damn my Gucci sunglasses were in that bag. Okay, they fell out of the bag. Thank gawd. I prided myself on actually being able to keep a pair of sunglasses without breaking them or losing them for a whole 5 years! So we slowly retreated… walking backwards then forwards while they picked through my bag of in-hindsight-not-so-prised tourist trinkets. Then they started to follow… damn gangsters (I’m thinking now… how to prevent a monkey attack: whatever you do, don’t freak out, scream, wave your arms, or run away!) So not all convinced that they wouldn’t keep searching us until they actually found something to eat, we pushed forward slowly down the wrong side of the mountain until they gave up. Which too had its mishaps… no public road, wind strong enough to knock us off a cliff, fence jumping, dusk approaching… BUT a cold beer at the end. All in all a lovely day in Gibraltar. Memorable in the least.
This Tunisian stew recipe is courtesy of Ulle, an old school friend of my favorite Schwabe. I like to think of it an ode to adventure, whether it be in dining or in life. Traditionally, this stew is made using couscous, however this recipe uses millet which is a healthy and gluten-free alternative. Millet mixed with quinoa also makes a pretty great substitute for couscous. Other than adding a little smoked paprika, I didn’t stray from her original recipe. Enjoy!
Total time: 40-45 minutes
2 tablespoons extra-olive olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup millet, rinsed (200 g)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric (or 3 tablespoons fresh, grated with a microplane)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional, but very nice)
1 medium eggplant (aubergine), chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 sweet pointed red pepper, chopped
400 ml chicken broth (alternatively vegetable broth)
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 x 400 g can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
200 g sheep’s milk feta cheese, crumbled
6 fresh chili peppers, cut into half lengthwise, remove seeds and inner white ribs (unless you want lots of heat, then leave the seeds and ribs intact)
1 small bunch cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, chopped (as garnish)
TIP: Feel free to adapt by adding or substituting with other good things like: kidney beans, broccoli, leeks, olives, etc.
1. In a wok or large deep sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the millet and spices (coriander, curcuma and curry). Continue to cook, mixing until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add the eggplant, zucchini and red pepper and sauté , stirring, for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the chicken broth, stir to combine, bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
3. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and fresh chili and continue to cook, covered, for 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the feta cheese and let cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowls. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley and enjoy!