Monday, November 17, 2008


Traditional Pastry shop in Oran, Algeira

I wake up every morning in my bedroom, where I have my orange painted closet, my teenage books, my grandparents’ old wireless radio and some dried roses still stapled over my desk; and I realize that I am home. It feels good. It feels really good.

Some furniture has been added around the house, old neighbors moved out and new ones moved in, more cats came to the nearby printing works and the lemon tree has finally started to bless us, but I still drink my milk in the same mug and still love taking naps in my parents’ bed; my mother still do her daily crosswords before falling asleep and we still have our mint tea with a big plate of M’ssemen and honey later during the day. It feels good. It feels really good to be back, to have some routines back, to see my daughter running in the house where I have so much found memories, and to hear her laughing out loud at the sight of our turtles.

I wake up every morning to a spring day and goes to bed to a fall night.

The turtle

My parents live in the west side of the country. A coastal city called Oran, once known for its lions, hence the name given to the city to commemorate the last two lions that used to reign over the nearby forest. Old, sometimes crumbling, often neglected, buildings, statues and forts still stand proud and tall all over the city, reminiscent of the Spanish and French eras.
With a glass of strong coffee or mint tea sitting on the side of the table for over an hour, Moorish coffees are the place where men of all ages meet to talk politics, and life, play cards and dominos or just sit there gazing at the passers by. Today I saw a group of four old men gathered around a traditional tray, sitting on small bunches on the sidewalk and enjoying coffee and some good looking pastries while people continuously passing by. My mother told me that only in Algeria you could see people taking their coffee on a busy avenue. I thought it looked like a nice gaada (company).

My mother and I went to one of my favorite, and most entertaining and diverse, local market the other day. And though I don’t have any photos, yet, to share with you, let me tell you something about our markets: They are not your usual farmers markets. They are loud, they are crowded, and they have everything from fruits and vegetables to shoe-shine boys, coffees under a tent, live poultry and rabbits, plumbers waiting to offer their service, letter-writer, marabout describing out loud on a microphone how his “medicine” can help urinary infections, and so much more.

Though I could have spent the whole day listening to the marabout and his fascinating stories, our basket was empty and the sight of sticky dates, pomegranates, roman beans and shiny fennel was more tempting. As we filled our mouths with samples and our baskets with heavy cabbage, tomatoes, dates, tangerines, Jerusalem artichoke, cardoons, fennel, herbs and olives, lunch was quickly taking shape. It was going to be a cabbage salad with celery and tomatoes, my father’s favorite, braised fennel with grilled meat and oranges. We carried our heavy bounty together, we were content with what we had, and nothing was missing. As we turned back to go home, we saw fall. We saw fall in a small red, dirty sweet potato. They were hidden between other potatoes and cauliflowers. They were heavy, they were beautiful, and they were going to be our third course.

My mother has different ways of cooking sweet potatoes. She bake them, fry them like French fries and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar at the end, or cook them in a tagine with saffron, cinnamon and honey. The dish takes 30minutes from peeling the potatoes to having them on your plate, and they are absolutely delicious. They melt in your mouth; they absorb all the spices and aromas of the syrupy sauce and they are all what a home is all about: sweet, warm and comforting.

Sweet potatoes tagine

Sweet Potatoes Tagine

Recipe: Serves four
- 2lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- ½ cinnamon stick
- A pinch of saffron
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1tsp orange blossom water
- 1tbsp honey
- 1 cup water
- A pinch of salt
- 1tbsp sweet butter
- A handful of raisins to serve (optional)

In a saucepan, put all the ingredients and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered with a lid, until the potatoes are just tender, but not too mushy, and the sauce reduces to a thick syrup, about 20 minutes.
Serve immediately sprinkled with raisins or roasted, flaked almonds.

Tagine de Patates Douces

In Français Please: pour 4 personnes
- 1Kg de patates douces, pelées et coupées en morceaux
- ½ bâtonnet de cannelle
- Une pincée de safran
- ½ c.c de safran de l’Inde
- 1c.c d’eau de fleur d’oranger
- 1c.s de miel
- 225ml d’eau
- Une pincée de sel
- 1c.s de beurre
- Une poignée de raisins secs pour servir (facultatif)

Dans une casserole, sur un feu moyen, mettre tous les ingrédients, couvrir et porter à ébullition. Réduire le feu et laisser mijoter jusqu’à ce que les patates soient tendres et que la sauce soit d’une consistance onctueuse, environ 20minutes.
Servir tout de suite saupoudré de raisins secs ou d’amandes effilées légèrement grillées.


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Hooray for home!!!

Mmm, LOVE sweet potatoes.

Victoria said...

What a really beautiful post.

I know that feeling about waking up in a place filled with happy memories of childhood. It's delicious.

The sweet potatoes look delicious too.

Anonymous said...

This is just beautiful. The pictures are lovely, and it's very evocative of place and family. The recipe looks great, too; i am considering it as a potential change from the standard, boring American Thanksgiving sweet potatoes. Plus, I really need an excuse to buy a tagine....

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your visit home with us. What a warm and enveloping feeling to be somewhere you love, and to introduce your daughter to this special place. I've been making sweet potato and raisin tagines recently, too. I'll think of this post when I make it the next time.

Anonymous said...

I wish I was here with you.
What a love my dear Warda, what a love is your blog !

Susan from Food Blogga said...

This is a beautifully written post, Warda. And your girl is positively precious.

Antonio Tahhan said...

الله يخليها لك يا رب
That is so nice that your daughter gets to visit the home where you grew up. I've never been to Algeria, but your description of the souqs reminded me of the souqs I visited in Syria and Lebanon last winter.
Your sweet potato tagine looks phenomenal - I love the color the potatoes get from the saffron!

Kathryn Laughton said...

How I've been waiting to hear from you in the past few weeks, knowing that you were on your way to your home town.
Delicious words, delicious recipe....thanks!


Shayne said...

oh my L is so Cute! Thank you so much for the visions in my head of a place I hope to visit some day.

Maureen Reynolds said...

What a blessing to be amidst family with the new member and to still have a home to go back to. Cherish your time!

Warda said...

- VeggieGirl, Hooray is the right word!

- Victoria, if only I could stop the time from passing by so quickly!

- Annie, Happy Thanksgiving day! Hope you will like it, and happy shopping ;)

- Lydia, I am sure your tagine must be heavenly.

- Marion, How I wish you would come, too! It's not late, you know! And our doors are wide open for you.

- Susan, thank you very much, my dear!

- Antonio, you are so sweet! Choukran for your words of blessings. They made my day.

- Shayne, we gt to plan our next trip together. We would have a blast, my friend!

Maureen, I am grateful for all that I have.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Oh Warda this is a lovely post! It reminded me so much of Doha! The impressions of the souqs, vegetable and spice markets all cam back to me. Your little girl is precious. Enjoy!

LILIBOX said...

j'ai plein de patates douces qui dorment.Elles n'attendaient que ta recette .
Merci et profites bien du retour aux sources .

Anonymous said...

I don’t know on how I stumbled upon this cooking blog., All I know is that I’d better check out the archives for a good read. Ha-ha! Just droppin’ to say hi!
Oh. You might want to check this out: for uhm…a different “menu.”

Anonymous said...

This is an absolutely amazing blog entry. I've been reading your blog for a short while, but couldn't resist speaking up to tell you how much I loved this entry. Thank you for your words and photos!

browniegirl said...

Sweet Warda, how I have missed your words weaving their spell....and how I have loved reading this post...your littl one is just too precious and reading about your homelife is just wonderful. Will you do me a favour s'il voux plait (sorry if the spelling is wrong) please put your arms around your mom and give her a hug from me and tell her I say thankyou for raising a beautiful daughter like you. I know she is beautiful too...much love from me to you xxx

Jen said...

How lovely, Warda! Thanks for sharing all this.

LILIBOX said...

Merci Warda pour cette subtile recette que j'ai refaite et beaucoup appréciée.

Anonymous said...

machalahhhhh, ton tajine kaychahi tbarkalah 3lik hbiba fin ghbarti?????

jolie photos


Anonymous said...

How special for you to be there and enjoy memories at the same time you're enjoying it all. Your words create vivid images of a place I know almost nothing about. It sounds beautiful. The sweet potatoes sound like something we'd really enjoy.

Shayne said...

I still get a big smile every time I page down your blog and see the photo of L with the turtle

Anonymous said...

How wonderful that you have such an amazing home to return to! Do enjoy!

Anonymous said...

How beautiful - France then home. The pics are stunning and your sweet potato dish is mouthwatering.

Anonymous said...

I love the west of Algeria! lovely blog!! :)

Rách Việc said...

Thank you for your beautiful writing. I've just found your blog and fell in love with all the writing. Thank you for sharing :)