A Home-cooked Algerian Iftar with Soraya

A portrait from Oran and Paris

Deepening a new friendship during an afternoon spent preparing familial recipes of Ramadan, sharing the resulting feast, and chatting all the while.


Algerian Iftar

I met Soraya when she attended a workshop I hosted with a mutual friend. She was (and still is!) full of energy, sweet, and a fellow multi-hyphenate, creative soul. I could see us becoming friends, but I also thought she was probably too busy for new pals in her life! When upon her goodbye she suggested we meet up, I chalked it up to pleasantries, though hoped I would see her again.

Soraya's Algerian Iftar - chorba

Some weeks later, we bumped into each other at an event for another mutual friend. We got talking and she once again suggested we go to a hammam together. At the workshop, she had already explained why hammams are an important part of her self care, a cleansing of soul and body, as well as a reconnection to her roots, all in one afternoon. “The woman who scrub you sing in Arabic,” she reminisced, “just like my aunties back in Algeria!”

It sounded lovely, and given that my only other bathhouse experience was in Budapest, with a Hungarian friend as my guide, I was excited for my first hammam experience to also be led by an expert friend.

About a few weeks later she and I were lathering black soap on our bikini-ed bodies. I was grateful to follow her instructions on the proper steps to take to clean before heading to be scrubbed down by the ladies. In the sauna, between the three, head-to-toe black soap latherings, we enjoyed a few solidary moments, laying on the benches to take advantage of a less-crowded day to really sink into this ritual of cleansing and renewal.

table full of homemade algerian food for soraya's algerian iftar. hands reaching for chorba, salad, bricks and bread

But once that process was done, there was time for a bit of chatting. We climbed atop the large heated stone platform to continue our relaxation, and in a curious mix of French and English, we spoke of the things that we wished to wash away: people or situations we no longer wanted to give our precious energies to, and the things we wanted to make more space for in our lives.

It came up that Ramadan was approaching, and I asked about her family traditions. I mentioned that each year we make Maamouls for ourselves and friends observing Ramadan, and how enjoy learning about the varied Ramadan traditions of our friends. She suggested we do an Algerian iftar and I couldn’t have been happier to oblige her, after all, this Cultures Capsules project was one of the things I was trying to make more space for in my life.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we were using every available inch of space in my tiny Paris kitchen to whip up a fantastic feast, with the help of my daughter. Meanwhile our sons bonded over soccer and playing a bit of basketball and darts.

Soraya's Algerian Iftar - Spices from her dad
it smelled heavenly, like a spice market.

We were even able to use spices that came directly from Algeria because Soraya’s dad brings them back for her. When she opened all the easy-to-travel-across-Paris bags, it smelled so heavenly. We could have been walking through a spice market.

Here we share all the details for how you can replicate this delicious homemade Algerian iftar at your own table. It does take some time, but. it is so very well worth it.


The Game Plan

There is a lot to do! The chorba needs a while on the stove, and the bricks take several intermediary steps before you are ready to assemble them, and then fry them right before serving. Here’s an overall game plan to keep you on a good path.

Soraya's Algerian Iftar - filling the Bricks
  • Double-check that you have all of your ingredients. There are quite a few and you don’t want to be in the middle of cooking and find out something crucial is missing (ahem! i.e. don’t be like Megs you forgot the green olives!).
  • Boil the potatoes until cooked, and set aside when ready.
  • Brown the lamb, and do the first few steps of the chorba.
  • Once the lamb is cooking under pressure, begin making the various parts of the brick fillings. Start by scrambling the eggs, and sautéeing the beef per the recipe, and once the potato is cool, mash it with the tuna.
  • Meanwhile, when the lamb is done cooking under pressure, begin the next few steps so that it can continue to stew and deepen in flavor.
  • If you are making bread, now’s the time to make the dough.
  • Make the salad and keep cold until ready to eat.
  • Shape the various bricks per the recipes, and keep covered by the paper they came in, in order to keep them moist and not brittle. You’ll want to cook them just before meal time so they are crispy and warm.
Soraya's Algerian Iftar - frying for the Bricks


Rai + Dance Music + Quran

While Soraya appreciates listening to the Quran for its calming, meditative qualities, she also enjoys dancing and singing along while she is cooking! So there was plenty of that, too.

The week prior, when I asked Soraya what I should include in a playlist, she told me I had to include Le Rai (Algerian folk music), which is very typical Oranais (i.e. of Oran the city of cabarets and festival, and the birthplace of Rai). She also provided the names of some of her favorite Algerian artists (Ibir, Cheb Khaled, Cheb Hasni, Cheba Zahouania and Rachis Taha), which I used to draft the first version of the playlist, and then she cleaned it all up to match her memories and preferences.

Why is everyone called Cheb? Well, it’s sort of the equivalent of like MC or DJ featured in some hip hop names. It’s a bit of an honorific, but in the case of Cheb, .. give the etymology given its origins in French verlan slang?

If you haven’t already, hit shuffle play and get it on your speakers!



Soraya's Algerian Iftar - chorba

What a warm hug this was. So rich and flavorful, instant sustance for mind, body and heart. It was so wholesome that it felt as if it was transporting me into memories, but I had never had it. In terms of taste, the closest match I could pull from memory was a Tunisian stew that I used to make, but that wasn’t it. The taste was richer both literally and figuratively; it was more than just the recollection of having eaten it, it was as if each bite had a story to tell.

So I of course had to ask Soraya what memories it brought up for her. Did she recall the first time she ate it, and whose table she was at? Whose kitchen was she in the first time she saw it being made, or the first time she helped?


Algerian Bricks, Three Ways

These Algerian bricks had a lot more pre-cooking preparation required than the Tunisian bricks we made and enjoyed with Asma, but they were well-worth the effort!

homemade algerian brick with beef homemade algerian food for soraya's algerian iftar.
beef brick

Each with their unique and delicious combinations, it was hard to pick a favorite, though that particular night the cigars disappeared first, followed by the beef, egg and cheese.

homemade algerian brick with beef homemade algerian food for soraya's algerian iftar.
brick with ooey gooey vache qui rit oozing out

Someday I will dive more into the story of bricks and their various fillings. How are they related to the potato stuffings we see in classic Indian samosas, and how is the leaf of brick related (or not) to filo dough or other pastry dough of that region. The filling Asma put in her Tunisian Brick were more pantry-based, where as Sorya’s took preparation. But was the back story more of using up leftovers of other dishes? If anyone has answers, write to us!

Soraya's Algerian Iftar
tuna molded into a cozy home for the raw egg and cheese, just prior to folding the brick
making the beef egg and cheese brick, homemade algerian brick with beef homemade algerian food for soraya's algerian iftar.
folding the beef brick
making the beef egg and cheese brick, homemade algerian brick with beef homemade algerian food for soraya's algerian iftar.
folding the cigar brick


Algerian Slata

Soraya's Algerian Iftar - salad

A light fresh accompaniment to the heavier bricks, and soul-warming chorba.


Semolina Ma’amouls Two Ways

Soraya's Algerian Iftar - maamouls

And it would not be Ramadan if the kids and I did not make and share our Ma’amouls! This year we made our original spiced date version as well as the Tunisian-inspired pistachio and orange blossom filling we learned from Asma Ramadan 2020, shortly after she made her Tunisian feast for us.

Deeeeelicious, and not too much work when you have 2 extra pairs of hands to do the stuffing.

ma'amouls factory 2024 ramadan for soraya's algerian iftar
ma’amouls factory



Algerian Home Cooking on On Va Dégouster

As luck would have it, in the days leading up to our Algerian iftar, one of my favorite podcasts was featuring Algerian home cooking! The On Va Déguster episode with Hanane and Anissa Abdelli is was a wonderful appetizer to our Iftar with Soraya and Issa.

chackchouka at mama nissa in paris, chakchouka homemade algerian food for soraya's algerian iftar.
chakhchoukha at mama nissa in paris,

I have been eyeing her cookbook Goûts d’Algerie, and again tempted to buy it, a stack them staring at me from the neighboring counter while I was enjoying their super-flavorful Chakhchoukha at their restaurant Mama Nissa.

The episode features a recipe for an Algerian bread which didn’t seem too hard, but I must have done something wrong as it came out quite hard (though tasty, and still lovely to soak up the chorba!).

table full of homemade algerian food for soraya's algerian iftar, chorba