“If you like couscous, eat it when it’s hot” - Ahmadou Kourouma
Many Brits love food and cooking their meals. In fact, a lot of us would love to cook more. Many don’t cook as often as they like because they’re busy or they can’t cook.
So why not try making some couscous?
In this article, we’ll look at what couscous is, hortw you can make it, and the different types of couscous you can make.
So What is Couscous?
Couscous is a great dish for aspiring chefs to learn how to cook. This North African dish is commonly eaten in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya. Generally, in many of the countries where a wheatmeal or semolina is common.
To discover where couscous came from, we need to go back to the 11th century to the region of Kabylie, Algeria. The nomadic Berbers in the region made couscous from wheat. The name “couscous” comes from the Berber word “k’seksu”. The term refers to the dish and the wheat meal used to prepare it.
Couscous is now eaten all over the world, especially around the Mediterranean in Greece, Italy, and Turkey.
In North Africa, couscous is an everyday meal that’s shared with the family. It’s also prepared for big occasions like marriages, births, and religious ceremonies. Couscous is often shared and eaten in groups. It can be eaten with family or friends.
According to some historians, couscous made its way into France when the French colonised Algeria. Some believe that the recipe arrived in France before this. The French renaissance writer François Rabelais mentioned it as early as the 16th century.
However, it wouldn’t become largely popular in France until the 20th century when people in France of Algerian descent started cooking the dish regularly. Nowadays, couscous has spread across Europe and become a very popular dish. In fact, in France, it’s one of the most popular dishes.
There’s been a bid from African nations for couscous to be given world heritage status by UNESCO.
Discover some simple recipes for beginners.
A Couscous Recipe
The traditional couscous recipe varies greatly depending on where it’s being made and who’s making it. However, there’s a basic recipe that’s generally agreed upon.
You can pick up couscous in most supermarkets. There’s precooked couscous that you can use. You just need to add water to the grains. However, if you want to make your couscous from scratch, you might want to visit a specialist supermarket.
Once you’ve got your meal, you need to spread out it on a large plate and add a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Use your fingers to separate the grains. Pour some cold water onto the grains. This will make things easier. Before cooking the grains, let them sit on a tea towel. Once they’ve dried a little bit, steam them. Let them cook for around 15 minutes. After this, separate the grains again and steam them for another 15 minutes. Finally, add some butter to the meal and separate the grains one last time. Now your couscous is ready!
Of course, you can’t stop there. You need to prepare the other ingredients.
Not fancy couscous?
Ingredients for six people:
- 8 chicken drumsticks
- 12 merguez sausages
- 3 tomatoes
- 10 turnips
- 5 carrots
- 2 courgettes
- 400g of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
- 2 cartons of tomato concentrate
- 3 tablespoons of couscous spices
- 1 teaspoon of harissa
- 2 beef stock cubes
- Olive oil
Start by washing and peeling the carrots, turnips, and tomatoes. Then dice them. Cook the drumsticks in a frying pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once cooked, add the stock and tomato concentrate to a litre of water of boiling water. Add the diced vegetables to the water before adding the spices and harissa. Cover and cook on a low heat for around 25 to 30 minutes.
While this cooks, dice your courgettes. After half an hour, add the courgettes and chickpeas to the frying pan. You’ll have plenty of time to wash and dice your courgettes and strain your chickpeas while the rest is cooking. Cook for another 10 minutes.
Cook the merguez separately from the vegetables.
You now have the choice of serving your couscous mixed in with the other ingredients or serving it all separately so that you can your guests can mix and match as you please. Everyone has different tastes, after all.
Just like with dishes like ratatouille or poulet basquaise, it’s a good idea to prepare your couscous the day before you want to eat it. This will allow the spices to soak into the mix.
Prepare your couscous in a tagine for a bit of authenticity.
Initially, there weren’t that many different types of couscous and there was only one type of meat served with it. This would generally be lamb, chicken, or fish. However, over time, different ingredients started showing up in recipes. You can freely add what you want.
Squashes, gourds, leeks, onions, etc. You can add it all. The same is true for the spices. You don’t need to have spicy couscous. You can add ginger, peppers, quinoa, pine nuts, cloves, fresh parsley, butternut squash, pistachios, etc. to taste.
The Different Types of Couscous
Not all couscous is the same. Each chef will make it according to their skills, tastes, and available ingredients. Couscous varies according to the region its served in. In coastal regions, you’re more likely to find fish in your couscous, whereas in dessert regions you’ll find dried meats or vegetables. Poorer regions tend to make them with less meat.
Each type of couscous is cooked differently and often has different names. Here are a few common types:
- Couscous Bidaoui: This is a Moroccan couscous made with 7 different vegetables.
- Couscous Khoumassi/Awerkis: Another Moroccan couscous that’s made with 4 different kinds of cereal.
- Couscous T’Faya: this is a sweet and savoury couscous with cinnamon. There’s chicken, raisins, and caramelised onions.
- Thiéré Couscous: This is cooked in Senegal and made from meal.
You can also serve cold couscous as part of a salad. This is often known as taboulé or tabbouleh.
You can make couscous almost however you want. Start with the basic recipe and let your imagination run wild. Garlic, peppers, pepper, spice, cumin, paprika, saffron, there are no rules! Meal, bulgur, barley, no matter what grains you opt for, remember that couscous is to be shared! Unsurprisingly, couscous goes great with dishes like Moroccan chicken, kalamata olives, and Middle Eastern cuisine, too.
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