A DAY IN LIBYA
Eight o’clock in the morning and from the bedroom window I see people fishing in calm waters, children getting ready for their swimming lessons, the Libyan sea, absolute stillness, the absolute Zen.
Today they will make couscous with pumpkin, raisins and almonds.
We must start with shopping and first stop: find a multi-colored tajine dish.
The way there doesn’t fail to impress you, you’ll see camels in their natural environment, camels traveling on trucks and the balance of Nature at its best..
After having haggled over the tajine we are off for the vegetables and spices.
Colors and aromas in the self-improvised bazaar, a little more shopping and we got what we need.
In the car, talking and laughing in a curious language since I don’t speak Arabic and they don’t speak English. We found however a way to communicate in spite of such differentiation, it simply required to respect of each other’s difference.
A stop for bread
A stop for bread at the open air bakery with its unbelievable smells and the baker’s virtuosity leaves you in awe and admiration. Although he’s been baking bread all day long since he was a little child, he looks so happy and fulfilled as if it were his first day at work.
We fill a bag with bread and we also take some with us to eat during the trip.
The absolute quietness..
I have the window down and a scene draws my attention, that is 10-12 Africans, each of them pushing one another as a pick-up car approaches them slowly, and trying to climb behind as it passes by. Their laughter is so loud, laughter of small children, having so much fun although only 4 of them will have managed to climb into the back of the car and go for a day’s work which will bring them a little money and maybe a little food. In spite of that, they laugh so much and turn their misfortune into a game… I thought I wish as was like them, I want to be like them, they have nothing and everything at the same time, first time in my life I felt jealous, jealous of their laughing, of their strength of character in the face of the adversities of life.
We’ll pass by the fish market just for a stroll..
It’s almost in the water next to the small fishing boats, with huge tables, uncountable fish, there’s all you could want and everything fresh, we walk among the people, among their shouting and haggling. I stop at a different table, with almonds, fresh mint and a large tin pot on burning coal; it’s my favorite tea.
He fills the cup to the brim with almonds, adds a generous handful of mint and pours the tea from high above. Its taste is so intense, fresh and sweet, and in the end I am eating the almonds flavored by the tea and the mint!
Time to leave and we are off for cooking..
We’ll chop onions, garlic and the pumpkin into little cubes, fresh tomatoes and their pulp, olive oil and the required spices.
We’ll put the couscous in a little water to cook, we’ll prepare the sauce, spicy, intense with plenty of fresh coriander.
Time to steam the couscous to make it puff and light as a cloud.
A little later it will be ready and we’ll serve it in the multi-colored tajin, first the couscous, on top the sauce and finally the black rains and almonds sauté..
We’ll sit a table all together like a family, like friends for many years. I am so far away from home and yet I feel so well, laughing and talking without any meaning.
The couscous is airy and intense, quite spicy but these raisins and these crunchy almonds bring it to a fine balance.
I felt fulfilled, happy, conquered by this moment, friends, colleagues and maybe family around a meal, laughter and more laughter…
The time has passed and it’s starting to sunset, we are again in the car, it is my favorite moment of the day in Libya when the sun is disappearing beyond the sea, incredible colors as if the desert was being painted in the sky..
The absolute stillness, Time has stopped, nothing matters, only this moment which is fading away like the sun beyond the sea.
I was so fulfilled! I had everything, trips, friends, fine food, laughter, conversations.
A day in Libya, what a perfect day!
Spicy Pumpkin Couscous
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Olive Oil
1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups pumpkin peeled and cut into cubes
- 1 cup zucchini cut into cubes
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp Harissa
1/2 cup cooked drained chickpeas (24h Long soak and simmer. Boiled for 40 to 50 minutes)
1 tablespoon black raisins
1/2 cup unsalted almonds (olive oil sautéed)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup whole wheat couscous
Combine the spices in a small cup and set aside.
Put the oil in a largish saucepan and set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cinnamon stick. Stir for a few seconds and then add the onion. Stir and fry for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is medium brown. Now stir in the cup of mixed spices, almost right away, add the fresh tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened.
Add the pumpkin, stir and cook for 3 to 4 min, add the chickpeas, stock, and salt and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is just tender when pierced with the point of a knife. Add the zucchini, the raisins, harissa and simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes, stirring gently now and then,
While the vegetables simmer, make the couscous. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. When it is about to boil, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium flame and toast the couscous in it for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the boiling water into the pot of couscous, add a teaspoon of salt, and stir once. Immediately cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit somewhere warm, still covered, for 15 minutes.
stir the cilantro and parsley into the finished vegetables. Put a mound of couscous on each plate. Make a well in the center and use a slotted spoon to fill it with solids from the stew, add the toasted almonds any. Enjoy
Health tip choice
Steamed the couscous
Replace the couscous with Quinoa
Replace the couscous with buckwheat
Add 1 cup of spinach
Make a side salad with kale, avocado, chickpeas, olive oil, lemon and herbs