The state of Libya, formerly an Italian colony until independence in 1951 was an authoritarian socialist state under Muammar Qaddafi from 1969 to 2011. His backing of terrorism led to a US bombing in 1986 and UN sanctions in 1992. In 2003 Libya ended its international isolation and abandoned its weapons programs. Since September 2014 the UN has been working to reconcile the governments and encouraging them to form a national unity government.
Libya’s coastline is the longest of any African country bordering the Mediterranean. The Libyan Desert forms the northern and eastern part of the Sahara Desert and covers 95% of Libyan territory. It is one of the driest, harshest and most remote parts of the greater Sahara and in 1922 the highest temperature (58 °C) on earth was recorded here (however it was disqualified by the World Meteorological Organisation in 2013 as it was found to be invalid).
Libya has many sights including the Roman city of Leptis Magna (originally a Phoenician port), the ancient Greek city of Cyrene, the Saharan Ubari lakes and 12,000 year old rock art at Jebel Acacus. However you’ll have to wait a while as travelling to Libya currently is a total no no.
Libyan cuisine derives much from the traditions of Tunisia and Egypt. There are four main ingredients of traditional Libyan food: olives (and olive oil), dates, grains and milk. Some recipes I came across include Mubatan (fried potato stuffed with meat), Mhalbiya (rice pudding), Bureek (pastries), Bazin (bread dome served with lamb stew and eggs) and Khubs bi’ tun (bread with tuna fish). I made Khubzah bil Ashab (Libyan Herb Bread) which was very flavoursome.
Serves: 6 – 8
Prep time: 25 mins + 1 – 1/2 hours resting time
Cook time: 25 – 35 mins
1 cup warm milk
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
8 level tbsp cornflour
3 1/2 cups plain flour
40ml olive oil
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
Bunch of thyme, chopped
Bunch of parsley, chopped
Green olives, chopped
1 tsp paprika
Add the dried yeast to 1/2 cup of warm water with a tsp of sugar
Measure 2 level tbsp into a cup and then fill to the top with plain flour then sieve into a bowl, repeat this 3 more times
Sieve the flour and cornflour 4 more times, then seive in the salt and baking powder
Add the warm water into the yeast and sugar and stir well
Add the liquid to the sieved flour gradually and bring into together to a soft dough
Stir in the herbs, olives and paprika into the dough
Stir in the olive oil
Cover the dough with a tea towel and leave it somewhere warm for 1 – 1/2 hours
Preheat the oven to 220 C.
Grease a loose base cake tin (about 20cm by 20cm)
Pour the dough and smoothen.
Brush generously with olive oil.
Put in the hot oven and cook for 25 – 30 mins or until golden
Use a skewer to ensure the dough is cooked
Remove from the cake tin and leave to cool on a wire rack
Cut into squares and serve with mint tea