08 December 2012


(Algerian Pumpkin, Chickpea, and Chicken Stew Served over Bread)


First of all, just to confuse you, this dish is sometimes also called shakshouka (I know, I don't understand how poached eggs in tomato sauce and chicken stew served over bread can have the same name either). However, we're going to stick with the more unique name of charchoura. I was served a version of this recently and I loved it for many reasons, it gave me a new use for our favorite messemen bread, not to mention a good use of now-in-season pumpkin, and overall it was something uniquely Algerian and new to me.

Charchoura is an Algerian Kabyle dish, and it consists in its most basic form of a stew served over torn up flat bread. Traditionally the stew will involve meat or chicken, stewed in a tomato base with chickpeas and seasonal vegetables. Spices and harissa go into the broth, and for a bit of extra kick you can add preserved lemons or hard boiled eggs.

Charchoura is also traditionally associated with the Algerian town of Biskra (bet you didn't know Bela Bartok performed research there), so you'll often find recipes for charchoura biskria. I found this great video of a woman making charchoura with what looks like eggplant and lamb. Most recipes for charchoura call for making the messemen bread yourself, but luckily I buy mine at the market here. The preserved lemon really makes this dish, so be sure not to skip it.

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Charchoura (Algerian Pumpkin, Chickpea, and Chicken Stew Served over Bread)
Some versions of this call for adding one cup of tomato sauce along with the water for a slightly thicker broth. I bought a whole pumpkin, chopped some and then roasted the rest to make pumpkin puree, which I've stashed in the freezer.

1 tablespoon butter or ghee (smen)
4 chicken legs, skin-on, drumsticks and thighs separated, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 a red onion, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon harissa or other spicy pepper paste
3 cups of cubed pumpkin
2 cups of cooked chickpeas
1 preserved lemon, inside and seeds discarded, diced*
cilantro, for serving
messemen bread (or substitute Lebanese markouk bread or another very thin flat bread)

1. Sprinkle chicken all over with salt. In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken and sear until browned on both sides. Remove the chicken to a plate.
2. If there is a lot of excess fat in the pan, drain off all but 1 tablespoon of it. Saute the onion in the pan until softened, then add the tomato paste, harissa, and spices and let them toast for a minute. Pour about three cups of water into the pan, then add all the chicken and any accumulated juices back into the pan. Add enough water so that the chicken is just covered and a pinch of salt. Place a lid on the pan and let simmer on low heat for 40 minutes.
3. While you're waiting, tear up the bread into very thin bits.
4. Add the chickpeas, pumpkin, and preserved lemon to the pot, cover and let simmer until the pumpkin is tender. Pumpkin cooks surprisingly quickly, so it may only take 5-10 minutes, test a piece with a knife. Turn off the heat on the stew when the pumpkin is done.
5. When ready to serve, arrange the torn bread on the bottom of each plate. Laddle the stew over the bread. Top with cilantro.

* See this page for a quick version of preserved lemons.

1 comment:

Crazy Radishes said...

Heh, to confuse you even further, in Turkish "shakshouka" refers to a dish of fried peppers and eggplants smothered in tomato sauce and garlic yogurt.