The French administration of Algeria began in 1830 and the region was governed as an integral part of France in the same way as Corsica and Réunion are today. One of France’s longest-held colonies but, there was (rightly) enormous Algerian dissatisfaction for their lack of political and economic status under this rule. There were calls for greater autonomy leading to independence. Tensions between Algeria and France escalated to a head in 1954, when the first violent events of the Algerian War began. With the conclusion of this war in 1962, Algeria achieved her independence.

During this period, France influenced Algerian cuisine and it is commonplace to see the French breads and the baguette in bakeries but equally, Algeria has influenced the food of France.

In the early 1900’s there were in the region of 10,000 Algerian workers in France who arrived and passed through the busy port of Marseilles. A significant number stayed in this region, working as dockers or in the Marseilles soap industry but, an increasing number moved to other large cities and industrial areas. There was mining work in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Paris offered the construction industry, the public transport sector and heavy industries.

Today, Algerians and North Africans are an integral component of French society and their foods add colour and flamboyance to French street markets and stores. I think that it is fascinating that as we move country to country, the last things to change are our food preferences; the newly re-opened Marks & Spencer food halls certainly fly the flag for a little bit of Britain in central Paris!

We offer insight into our own heritage and culture by the food we cook and share with friends and this is beautifully demonstrated by Freha, the neighbor of our good friends who now live in Alet les Bains in Southwestern France. Each holiday visit they made heralded dishes of couscous, home-made jams, the most delicious Algerian flat bread though generally, whatever Freya was in the mood to cook then hand delivered by this kind lady. I am grateful that my friends are kind souls and what was theirs was shared with an ever-present guest …

Made with a mixture of semolina and flour, this is my version of Algerian flat bread which is best served the same day that it is made but, as it is a delicious accompaniment to everything, this will not be problematic. I can’t guarantee that this is as delicious as the breads made by Freha but, my family certainly enjoys this treat and one day I may pluck the courage to share this with my good friends too.

Algerian Flat Bread
makes 4

  • 250g fine semolina
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1pkt fast action yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 tbsp. oil plus little extra for greasing
  • about 300ml lukewarm water, to mix

1. Thoroughly mix together the semolina, flour and yeast in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the oil then gradually all of the water; a little at a time until the mixture is a firm dough.

2. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Lightly grease the mixing bowl then return the dough, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in volume.

3. Divide the dough into 4 even sized pieces, lightly knead then roll into discs of about 20cm in diameter, allowing them to rest for about 15 minutes before cooking.

4. Heat a heavy based, non-stick frying pan and cook flat breads for about 3 minutes on each side. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe