A traditional Algerian dish for ceremonies and for various occasions, especially for aid and achoura, as it can be prepared for a family meal or to welcome guests.
A dish made up of delicate and fine dough often homemade in touiza mode as is the case for couscous, chakhchouka dfar and el gritlia like here etc…
Algerian dough-based dishes are often 100% homemade, unfortunately this is no longer the case now, machines have replaced everything. Industrialization is omnipresent in our cuisine, rare are the families who have kept these traditions, and these moments of exchange and sharing.
Almost everything is purchased commercially and it’s a shame because the taste and texture are not the same. Maybe in the small villages these traditions still persist, at least I hope so.
These pasta are easy to make provided you have patience and a certain dexterity in order to follow the steps delicately because it is very important to have squares of the same caliber. For this you can use a manual machine or as there are now, faster and more practical electric machines.
Just as you can, for the bravest and if you want to preserve tradition and the artisanal side, roll out the dough very thinly with a rolling pin and then cut regular strips, then cut squares of the same size.
Drying is done on a clean cloth designed for this, often these are sheets purchased especially for drying different pastes in the open air and away from dust and impurities (or el oula العولة which means reserve ).
At home in eastern Algeria, the mkartfa or trida as called in other regions, is based on white sauce with mutton or chicken. Unlike our Tunisian neighbors who cook this pasta based on tomato sauce, called nwasser. With this type of meat mentioned above, you can also add meatballs of ground beef or mutton.
For the spices in the sauce, everyone has their own recipe, personally I don’t like to taste too much cinnamon in the mkartfa, I just use a stick and never powder. I find that the white sauce goes well with the garlic so I like to smell its taste.
For my part, these squares of dough are homemade that I brought with me from my home in Algeria. Some women have even made it their livelihood and fortunately elsewhere.
1 to 1.5 kg of homemade mkartfa
1 whole chicken cut into pieces, whole thighs or other meat
1 to 2 onions depending on size
2 to 3 cloves of garlic (optional)
1 drizzle of oil as needed knowing that this dish must be a little fatty)
Smen or failing that, clarified butter (1 tbsp for the sauce and 1 to 2 tbsp for the pasta)
Frozen chickpeas (soaked beforehand a few days before or the day before in a cold water bath)
1 cinnamon stick
Water or chicken broth
Hard-boiled eggs depending on the number of people.
1- At the bottom of the couscoussier, pour a drizzle of oil and add 1 teaspoon of smen, then sauté the chicken pieces for a few minutes to brown them slightly.
2- Add the grated onion and also sauté to make it translucent. Add the chickpeas, pepper, cinnamon stick.
3- Deglaze with water or chicken broth about 1 litre. Let the chicken cook for about 20 minutes, then recover it by draining it and place it in a pan and brown it with a little oil and smen to give it a nice golden color.
4- In order to accompany the mkhartfa with spice for the amateurs, meanwhile put the previously washed green peppers in a frying pan with a little olive oil and allow to fry or grill over a low heat.
Preparing the pasta:
1- In a bowl, put the squares of mkartfa or trida and coat them lightly with oil and mix gently with your fingers to preserve their shape and avoid crumbling them.
2- In the top of the couscoussieur lightly oiled to prevent the squares from sticking, place them and steam over the boiling sauce. Check for doneness, the steam should go through the full amount of mkharfa.
3- Remove the top of the couscoussier carefully and reverse the pasta in the bowl, sprinkle them with a little sauce about a ladle and try to separate them. Let the sauce absorb and iron them or put them back in steam and repeat the same operation 2 to 3 times, you should not have very soft pasta but rather al dente.
4- Remove the mkhartfa from the top of the couscoussier once the squares are tender, add butter and a small drizzle of oil and coat them completely and always try to separate the pasta squares, it’s important.
5- Make everything rather wide and avoid high containers so as not to stick the squares of pasta which are very delicate. Then sprinkle them with sauce to cover them and cook for a few minutes without stirring until the sauce is completely absorbed.
6- Serve hot in a deep dish with the chicken, chickpeas, green pepper and hard-boiled eggs. You can serve the sauce on the side for people who want to baste the pasta more.