Come on Baby, It All Tastes So Good: Tunisian-Spiced Shrimp, Egyptian Bread and Oven-Fried Cheese, Libyan Herb-Stuffed Potatoes

Well, I got side tracked and am a day behind.  Yesterday was my godson, Apple Dumpling’s, first birthday party and I was too full of cake, cookies and Italian Beef to make anything for dinner. Rather than move forward, I’m cramming all I had planned to make into today because everything sounded like it was worth making.



Me and Apple Dumpling.  The CUTEST.

Continuing in the Northern African tradition, I’m doing a multi-course feast:  Tunisian-flavored sautéed shrimp, Egyptian Eeish Baladi (bread) and Gebna Makleyah (oven-fried cheese), and Libyan Mb’attan (stuffed potatoes).  When put all together, I had quite the mosaic on my dinner table.  Get ready to eat.


First, Tunisia. Located on the northernmost tip of Africa, it’s cuisine and culture is heavily influenced  both by the Mediterranean climate and agriculture and all the cultures and civilizations that have historically had a presence there, dating all the way back to the Phoenicians and Romans and most recently the French, their rule ending in 1956.  Like most Mediterranean regions, the food revolves around olive oil, seafood and spices.  However, one ingredient allows Tunisia to distinguish itself from the rest of the region:  the chili pepper.  Unlike other mildly spiced dishes found in the rest of North Africa, Tunisians pack a punch by adding harissa, a sauce made of red chili, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, olive oil, and sometimes also caraway or mint.   I didn’t make harissa tonight, but here’s a recipe that looks pretty amazing.

For my part, I figured I haven’t made anything seafood-y for a while, so I decided to sauté some shrimp using the above flavors. The result was light, spicy, and tasty and left plenty of room for what was still coming.

Tunisian-spiced Shrimp

Serves 2


12 raw shrimp

2 garlic cloves

½ TB olive oil

½ tsp cumin

¼ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp smoked paprika

Pinch cayenne pepper

2 TB chopped parsley

2 lemons, juiced

Salt and pepper


Shrimp, with a side of carrot salad


1.  Shell and de-vein the shrimp, leaving the tails on.

2.  Mix all the remaining ingredients, apart from the lemon juice in a bowl and pour over the shrimp. Let marinate at least 20 minutes.

3.  In a skillet with a tiny bit of oil, sauté the shrimp until they turn pink, about 4-5 minutes.  Toss in the lemon juice and serve.


Next up, Egypt.

Egyptian food reflects the country’s influence by Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian traditions. Because meat was historically very expensive, a lot of Egyptian dishes rely on vegetables, cheese and seafood.  Bread is served at almost every meal, the local bread being Eish Masri, which literally translates to “bread of life”-a simple but hearty accompaniment, also used as an eating utensil.  Here we have it as part two of today’s feast.

Taken from The Egypt Daily News


1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour

¾ cup plus 2 TB warm water

½ tsp salt

2 ½  tsp active dry yeast


1.  Dissolve the yeast in a little bit of the water and let stand until frothy. Meanwhile, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and add the rest of the water.

2.  Knead until you get a smooth dough, then separate into six pieces. On a floured surface, roll the pieces into balls, then flatten with the palm of your hand. Let rise in a warm place until doubled (one to two hours).



Double, double, this bread was no trouble…

3.  Bake about 30 minutes until golden brown.


What goes splendidly with warm bread?  Cheese, of course!  Native cheese comes in two varieties: gibna beida, similar to feta, and gibna rumy, a sharp, hard, pale yellow cheese.  I used feta, since that’s what’s in my market.  In reality, this cheese seemed not at all fried, so I’m not sure why it’s called that.

Gebna Makleyah

Taken from


1 cup firm feta cheese, crumbled, or traditional Egyptian cheese such as labna or gebna

1 Tablespoon flour

1 egg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Olive oil

Handful or parsley, chopped

Lemon wedges and pita bread cut into triangles, for serving


1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2.  Place the cheese, flour, egg, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well with very clean hands. Alternatively, process in a food processor (this will obviously make it smoother than if done by hand). Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. If the mixture seems too loose to hold its shape, add a little more flour. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit of lemon juice, vinegar, or water.

3.  Pour 2 or 3 Tablespoons olive oil onto a cookie sheet to grease. Arrange the cheese balls on cookie sheet, rolling them around to coat thoroughly with the oil. Bake 5 minutes at 400°.

4.  Wearing an oven mitt, shake the baking sheet to turn the cheese balls, and bake 5 more minutes or until golden brown.

5.  Serve the cheese balls while still warm, with lemon wedges and triangles of pita bread or Eeish Baladi.

bread and cheese


Last but not least, I rounded everything out with MB’atten, a Libyan potato sandwich of sorts.  Typically stuffed with a cooked mincemeat mixture and herbs, the potatoes are sealed with an egg wash and then fried.  Since I already had my protein in the shrimp and cheese, I left the mincemeat out, stuffing some with herbs only and others with herbs and leftover feta.  I actually felt that these ended up looking pretty impressive, and were very easy to make. I thought the recipe below had an overpowering dill taste, so maybe next time I’d reduce that amount. Also, I really liked the idea of these, and could see using this stuffing method to make a wide variety of tasty spuds.

Recipe taken from   (If you want the meat variety, check out this site).

Serves 2



1 large baking potato

½ bunch parsley

½ bunch dill

1 bundle spring onions

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp salt

1 tsp harissa or chili powder

1 tsp turmeric

Sprinkle cinnamon

1 ½ TB tomato paste

Salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper

½ cup flour

Lemon juice, to garnish


1.  Make the stuffing:  Finely dice all the ingredients (except the potato, egg and flour) or process into a paste with the food processor.

2.  Slice the potato lengthwise, cutting one slice three-quarters down and stopping just before reaching the bottom, then cutting the second all the way down, ending with two slices of potatoes joined at the base, each about 1/3 inch thick. Sprinkle some salt on all the slices and dry with kitchen paper, if wet. Open the two slices and stuff with the mixture, until the sand witch is full and fat, and then tap in firmly with your hand along the exposed edge.



3.  After the potato is stuffed, dip only the edge of the potato in the egg wash and then in the flour (sort of like a seal) and place in a large sauté pan coated in olive oil (alternatively, you can use a deep fryer).

4.  Cook on about 10 minutes per side until the potato is cooked through and golden brown.  Because I didn’t deep fry these, I ended up covering my pan and steaming them a bit, just to ensure the potatoes cooked all the way through.

5.  Season the hot potatoes with salt and pepper and squeeze some lemon juice over it to taste.


Crispy Potatoes


Whew. I’m tired. And full. And happy.


All for me…

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