I bought a pack from my butcher tchicha. That’s how it works, in addition to meat in the refrigerated counter, there are always dry foodstuffs against the other wall. Everyone can quickly stock up on something before it’s cooking time. When I asked what that tchicha was used, they couldn’t really answer me: butchers are rarely cooks, just as musicians are usually not dancers.
It is Tchicha, not chicha. With the Maghrebian population this means the latter water pipe, with the South Americans an alcoholic fermented drink of various seeds. But no, this one tchicha turns out to be just barley. Or barley grits, broken grains. We know that barley is primarily a raw material for making beer. Who ever heard that barley is also used for something else?
Barley barley used to be popular with the poor: the French spoke of gruau, the British of gruel
Barley to make beer is malted. The grains are moistened and then allowed to germinate. Then the process is stopped by drying the malt (If that drying goes too fast, and the malt starts to caramelize, you will get brown beer later). When you then start brewing with that malt, ie adding warm water and stirring for a long time, an enzyme from the germ, amylase, converts the starch in the grains into sugar. Unboiled and unfermented wort, because that’s what this sweet barley soup is called, tastes enchantingly sweet. But that is not sold in the breweries. The wort is boiled with hops and then inoculated with yeast. This is how wort becomes beer.
But this tchicha is not malted. It’s just broken barley grains.
Long ago, ‘pearl barley’ was also popular here, but has now almost completely disappeared. That was milled barley, where the skins and brown color of the grain had been removed. Some added to soup to thicken, or made porridge out of it. This rough version is perhaps just a little more appealing, more natural in today’s minds.
Broken grains, of all kinds, are generally called barley. Barley barley used to be popular with the poor: the French spoke of groats, the British of gruel. And in the Low Countries that became an abomination. Water horror if made with water, porridge if made with milk. Today only the oat version is popular, in the form of porridge, but that’s just not quite the same.
Sometimes with whiskey
Take a few spoons of barley barley, put them in boiling water and let them boil. At least ten minutes, but it can also be much longer. The horror can become very thick and cold it will stiffen completely. It even becomes a little sweet after cooking for a long time. Weak water horror was also sifted and then given as a drink to sick people ‘who cannot digest the grains’. Furthermore, horror is as good as tasteless. Add some salt. Up to the user to add sugar, honey or other spices, the Scots sometimes put whiskey in it!
But in the Maghreb, this broken barley is harira tchicha: a soupy porridge for people who can use some energy:
Finely chop an onion and two peeled and pitted tomatoes. Put them in a pot with some olive oil and let it stew. Sprinkle over the barley barley and two liters of chicken stock. Seasoning comes from will, a spice mixture that is quite variable in composition, but otherwise use fresh thyme, oregano, mint, paprika … Serve with some hot pepper, a knob of butter or oil and olives. That is Algerian horror. I heard from the Moroccans that they cook with soured milk and cumin powder, with or without honey. There are still many variations. Tasty.
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Abomination – Nothing to be afraid of, it’s just grit – Foodlog