In Morocco, some of the best food is made at home. When I went to Tunisia I was confident the same was true. But, without having a home to go to for dinner I did the next best thing, I asked the owners of the house/riad I was staying at if they would make me traditional Tunisian food for dinner. Not only was I treated to an amazing view, the food was also exceptional.
I had no idea what they would prepare for me but I left the door open. I am so glad I did! while there were several things that I really enjoyed, my favorite was djerba rice. Djerba is an island off the coast of Tunisia and is the largest island in North Africa at just under 200 sq miles with a population around 150,000 people.
Fun fact about Djerba; Legend has it this is the island of the Lotus-Eaters where Odysseus was stranded on his voyage through the Mediterranean! Due to it being an island it’s not a big surprise that there are unique culinary quirks and recipes that are found here and not found elsewhere. It’s heavily Mediterranean and epitomizes comfort food. Speaking with anyone from Djerba the first thing I noticed was how much love they have for their local cuisine. What’s not to love about that?Legend has it Djerba is the island of the Lotus-Eaters where Odysseus was stranded on his voyage! Click To Tweet
Along with this dish, they also made me a traditional Arabic salad (cucumber/tomato/onion with olive oil dressing) and my host told me on Djerba in the summer his grandma would often make the same dish but include green melon and torn mint as a fresh twist. Of course tajine was also part of dinner. No, not Moroccan tajine – the Tunisian version which reminds me more of a frittata. Way too much food but I enjoyed every single bite!
Note: For this recipe the rice is steamed – this is what makes it unique. If you don’t have a steamer, I recommend this one that you can also use to make couscous. Double Boiler and Steamer Set
- 1 lb basmati rice
- 1 handful of chopped parsley
- 1 handful chopped cilantro
- 1-2 cups chopped spinach (or any type of chard or kale)
- 1 large chopped onion
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 1/2 tsp ras al hanout
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1-2 chicken breasts cut into small pieces (optional)
- harissa to serve on the side
- lemon wedges to serve on the side
- cilantro and parsley for garnishing
- Rinse basmati rice with cold water until water is no longer cloudy.
- Add olive oil and tomato paste to the rinsed rice.
- Mix in parsley, cilantro, spinach, onion, garlic, caraway seeds, and ras al hanout. Add chicken if you're using it at this point.
- Place the mixture into the top of the rice steamer and cover.
- Allow to steam 45 minutes and check the water level, adding more if needed.
- Remove the cover and pour the rice mixture into a bowl, use a large bowl to mix the rice.
- Put the rice back in the steamer and continue steaming for another 30-45 minutes until it is completely cooked through.
- Add fresh herbs if desired.
- Serve with harissa and lemon wedges on the side.
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