Tunisian stew rich in tradition

Merely a stone’s throw away from the Algerian border is the Tunisian town of Nefta.

The large oasis town became a trading hub, with routes spread across the Sahara desert, and over the centuries people of various nationalities and countries contributed to the flow of gastronomic influences.

While villagers now reside in proper houses, they still choose to spend the summer season in the oasis, preparing and savoring a local dish called zitouna.

Berber women cook the lamb in a stew of tomato sauce, onions, and flavor it with hot peppers and olives – ingredients which have been derived from the Romans, Turks, Arabs and Pheonicians.

Such multicultural influence has distinguished Tunisian cuisine from the rest of its neighbours, and desert gastronomy in particular is deeply rooted in tradition.

Ammar Esseghir says his family visits the oasis on a weekly basis and prefers to cook a meal on a bonfire instead of a gas stove.

Stews have withstood the effects of time and modern preparation methods, and the Berber people are loyal to their traditions even though Tunisia is a rapidly developing country.

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