In 1992, the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut) or FIS as it is also known dominated the first elections in Algeria. The problem was the FIS was a coalition of Islamic extremist groups that threatened to destroy the very democracy that was being practiced for the first time. The FIS wanted to return to a strict interpretation of the Koran and turn Algeria from a new democracy into a extremist-led government. To prevent the FIS from assuming power, the Algerian army intervened and postponed the second round of elections. They also began a crackdown of the FIS that would spur the group to begin attacking government targets. The government later would allow elections featuring pro-government and moderate religious-based political parties, but not the FIS who would upscale their attacks. The fighting between 1992-1998 would result in over 100,000 deaths, many of which can be attributed to indiscriminate massacres of villagers by the extremists. In January 2000, the Islamic Salvation Army disbanded. The army would choose their own president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a fraudulent election in 1999, but would claim that they did not intervene when he won re-election in 2004. There are many problems that afflict the country still during Bouteflika’s reign, including large-scale unemployment, housing shortages, unreliable utilities, corruption and continuing activities by extremist militants.
Algeria is the 10th largest country by size, and the largest in Africa. It has been home to many cultures and empires, including the Berber, the Byzantines, Turkish and the Roman Empire. The 34th most populous country on earth, Algeria has over 37 million inhabitants.
The recipe we are making is a version of “Sweet Meat” commonly used in North African cooking. This is a very sweet dish so it is best to balance it by serving with a grain or bread. We will serve this with a mint couscous that is very common in Algeria. For those of you who aren’t used to eating fruit with your main meal, this may come as a shock to your taste buds, but i recommend trying it!
- 900g (2lb) Lamb, boneless – 3/4″” cubes
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Cup Water
- 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Orange Juice
- 1/3 Cup Almonds (Blanched)
- 1/2 Cup Prunes (Pitted)
- 2/3 Cup Sugar
- 2 Cups Water
- 2 Cups Couscous
- 3/8 Teaspoon Saffron Threads
- 3/4 teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1/5 Cup Yellow Raisins
- 2 1/4 Tablespoons Fresh Mint (chopped)
First, sprinkle the lamb pieces with salt and leave to sit for about 5 minutes.
Heat up oil in a large pan (large enough to hold everything). Lightly brown the Lamb 1/2 at a time and then remove.
Add the almonds, sugar and the cinnamon stick to the pan with the leftover juice from the Lamb. Stir through and then add the water and orange juice.
Bring this all to a boil stirring constantly. Once it is boiling add the lamb back to the pot, cover and simmer on low for 1 hour or until the lamb is tender.
After the lamb is left to simmer, its time to start preparing the couscous. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil and then add the saffron threads. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, return the pan to the heat, bring to a boil and mix in the olive oil, salt couscous and raisins. Remove again from heat, cover and let stand again for 30 minutes.
After about 15 minutes, add the prunes to the lamb mixture.
After the 30 minutes is up, both dishes should be ready. Using a fork, fluff the couscous by raking it and separating the grains. Stir in the mint and lay a bed on a bowl or plate.
Cover with the sweet lamb stew and enjoy!.
There were two separate recipes used for this dish. One was the Lahm Lhalou recipe here.
The other was for the Mint and Saffron Couscous which can be found here.