Southern Mediterranean cuisine is rapidly gaining in popularity. After a period, where it was primarily associated with traditional stews and couscous, the full variety of the North African cuisine is coming to light. Shak-shuka recipes are now presented by the BBC, the Hairy bikers or the New York times. Interest in spices and new grains, sweet-sour combination or vegan eating, are part of a trend of home cooking and culinary tourism driving this interest.
Restaurateurs such as Mourad Mazouz and Yoram Ottolenghi played a key role in show-casing Moroccan, Tunisian, Lebanese and Algerian cuisine. Interestingly, what started in some of the best restaurants in the United Kingdom has reflected on broader consumer trends. A number of supermarkets propose chorba and other North African soups. Many restaurants are using harissa in a number of the recipes. Whole Foods 2018 trends report identified Middle Eastern as one of the 10 most important movements alongside transparency.
In our interaction with food lovers, whether professional chefs, retail buyers or passionate consumers, we noticed two drivers in this interest: the search for new flavour combinations and the discovery of new ingredients and products. The use of mint in salads, of raisins in sauces or using crunchy m’hamsa underlines the versatility of this cuisine in every day cooking.
Artisan producers and chefs play a key role in constructing this cultural heritage. Its success lies in the transmission of that authentic taste, the one which creates an almost visual perception of the terroir. It is about sourcing excellent ingredients and recreating that magical taste which will connect every North African with memories of childhood, family reunions or a culinary ritual. When this level of emotion can be created and shared, Southern Mediterranean cuisine can follow the path of Italian, French and Indian cuisine. It can become part of our favourite dishes and every day eating.
An evolution is also taking place in many North African countries with the development of organic farm, agrotourism and participation in international competitions. Tunisia which ranks among the world’s largest olive oil producers, sees an increasing number of its producers winning in the most prestigious international competitions. A proposal is currently under way regarding the classification of couscous on the Unsesco list of intangible world heritage.