Sun, sand and sea…what more could a person want for a relaxing vacation? Europeans have long known the allure of travel to Tunisia, that small piece of North Africa that’s been attracting tourists with its natural beauty and Mediterranean coast for years. Steeped in culture that can be dated all the way back to prehistoric times, Tunisia has become a playground for those seeking everything from relaxing sea water therapy to playing the links.
This “mystery guest” loves nothing more than relaxing in the atmosphere of one of Iberostar’s ten resorts and hotels in Tunisia. Whether it be the elegant five-star Iberostar Solaria in Hammamet, or the comfortable Mehari Djerba with its Tunisian architecture and 27-hole golf course nearby, I’m always ready to relax and soak up some sun and serious food when I visit.
If you’re new to Tunisian food, you’re in for a real treat, as the influences of nearby cultures permeate the foods. Forget what you thought you knew, and open up your senses to the Tunisian tajin, which is a crustless quiche, brik, made of egg and tuna stuffed into a hearty dough, and couscous, the national dish, which in my humble opinion is by far the finest in all of North Africa.
Chef Slim Bettajeb oversees the food at all ten of Iberostar’s Tunisian resorts. I was able to get a few minutes of his time and learn a bit about the man behind the food at our favorite resorts.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career. How did you get to be an Iberostar chef?
I studied the culinary arts at École Hotelliere from 1984 to 1985. Having worked in several major hotel chains, I took the opportunity to participate in various international events, including the Guinness world records — for the biggest couscous (2 tons), as well as having participated in gastronomic week festivals around the world, until I came to work for Iberostar.
What Tunisian dishes are served at your resort? Are they served every day at lunch and dinner? Is anything typically Tunisian served at breakfast?
We specialize in all types of couscous dishes such as stews, rices, hot appetizers, and hors d’oeuvres. We serve several of them daily for lunch and dinner, changing our menu often. Mornings bring more typical dishes for breakfast such as donuts (ftaia) and bread (mlaoui).
Which is your favorite Tunisian dish, and why?
My favorite food is bourgoul, which you may know as bulghur or cracked wheat. We prepare it with dried meat and vegetables. It’s healthy and hearty with lots of natural fiber, protein and carbohydrates.
Do you have a recipe that you could share with our readers that would be simple to make at home?
Yes, this Ojja with eggs recipe is relatively simple and would give them the opportunity to sample the flavors of Tunisia at home.
Ojja with eggs
- Diced peppers 0.250 kg
- Diced tomato 0.200 kg
- Crushed garlic 0.080
- Tomato paste 3 gs
- 5 eggs
- Olive oil 0.050 l
Coarsely chop the peppers and tomatoes and crush the garlic. Add the fresh tomatoes, peppers and tomato paste until slightly wet, season with salt, pepper, turmeric and caraway. Simmer. At the end of cooking add the eggs and let them cook. Serve hot.