Vegetarian berkoukes: Algerian peppercorn pasta

A cousin of couscous, these fat semolina balls are an Algerian classic. This vegetarian recipe substitutes the meat for a handful of spinach to create a low-fat yet nutritious meal.


  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tomatoes (peeled and seeded)
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • 1 cup of chickpeas (tinned or soaked and boiled)
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 handful of chopped spinach
  • 3 cups of berkoukes (also known as “peppercorn pasta” or “pasta bullets”)
  • 1 bunch of coriander
  • 2 teaspoons of ras al-hanout
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil


  1. Finely chop the onions and celery and cook over a medium heat in the olive oil under soft and translucent.
  2. Crush the garlic, add to the saucepan and cook for another few minutes.
  3. Dice the carrot, tomatoes and courgette and chop the green beans. Add to the pan and cover with boiling water.
  4. Add the chickpeas, tomato paste, ras al-hanout, paprika and salt to taste and bring to a gentle simmer.
  5. Once the vegetables are cooked through – 30 to 40 minutes – and the tomatoes have dissolved, add the berkoukes and simmer until tender. Add boiling water from the kettle if necessary to create your preferred consistency.
  6. Just before serving, add a handful of chopped spinach and stir through.
  7. Check the seasoning and sprinkle with chopped coriander.

You can mix up the vegetables in this dish depending on what’s in season and what you have at home. It’s a great way to use up any odds and ends you have in the fridge.