What is rouz jerbi?
Rouz jerbi or Djerbian rice originates from Djerba, an island on the Tunisian coast known for its infinite and sublime beaches and white houses.
This dish is the result of multiculturalism as there are many in the Mediterranean. Indeed, the Djerbian culture is a combination of Berber, Jewish, Arab and African influences. Homer was already mentioning the island in his Odyssey where Ulysses landed. It was there that the first contacts between Romans and Phoenicians took place. A place of exchange, trade and meetings.
Rouz jerbi perfectly embodies this culture and this notion of sharing and welcoming, notions so dear to the hearts of Tunisians. It is a convivial dish that is eaten with family or friends. Close your eyes and you’ll imagine spice traders agreeing on the terms of their transactions by sharing this delicious and fragrant rice dish.
This is one of those simple, quick and warm recipes. Ready in one hour and not requiring any particular technique since all the ingredients are mixed in a salad bowl before steaming for an hour. Just the time to set the table and get transported with aromas of paprika, mint or coriander. It’s also one of those versatile dishes that vary with the seasons and cravings.
If the execution remains the same, the ingredients sometimes differ. Seafood or octopus that Tunisians love but also meats like chicken, lamb or beef. Legumes such as chickpeas or various herbs are sometimes included.
How to make rouz jerbi
The cooking is done in a couscous steamer (couscoussier), ideal companion of Berber cuisine. Rouz jerbi may be more or less spicy, the addition of peppers depends on people’s tastes but Tunisians love these long green peppers and delicious olives found on all tables in the country. For those who love liver, its taste really enhances the dish. The flavors are varied, it’s really a dish that you never get tired of.
It would be a shame not to put a little harissa in the preparation. Harissa is the flagship condiment of Tunisian cuisine. Families usually prepare it at home but it can be bought fresh or canned in all grocery stores. The variety of peppers used gives a different taste from one harissa to another.
Every family has its own recipe and here again, some people love it spicy, others less so. It can be prepared with smoked peppers and this version is undoubtedly more flavorful.
The color of Djerbian rice differs from one season to another. The presence of chard and peas makes the dish very green in the spring, but tomatoes and peppers in the summer sometimes make it redder or orange.
Rouz jerbi is a dish by itself but it can also be served as an accompaniment to grilled meat or fish for example. This this dish was often prepared by families to feed the needy.
In Sousse, in the east of the country, this dish is often called “the dish of the poor”. It is nonetheless a particularly tasty dish that we loved to prepare.
- 5 cups rice (parboiled, long grain)
- 2 lb lamb , cut into small pieces
- ¾ lb lamb liver (or beef liver), cut into small cubes
- 1 cup chickpeas (soaked overnight)
- 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
- 3 carrots , peeled and diced
- 5 large onions , chopped
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons harissa
- 1 lb fresh spinach (or 2 bunches chard), finely chopped
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 teaspoon tabel (Tunisian spice blend, mainly coriander, and a combination of paprika, caraway, garlic, ginger, mint, dried chili)
- 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- ½ cup olive oil
- Fried green hot peppers (to serve)
- Couscous Cooker
- Rinse the rice thoroughly and drain for 30 minutes.
Boil a large amount of water in the bottom of a couscous cooker (or double boiler).
- Place all the ingredients and spices in a large bowl and mix well so that everything is well blended with the spices, herbs and olive oil.
- When the steam escapes from the holes of the couscoussier, place all the mixture.
- Make a small hole in the center, cover and cook, stirring gently from time to time until the chickpeas become tender. Cook for about an hour.
- Arrange in a dome shape in a serving dish. Decorate with fried green hot peppers and enjoy hot.