Couscous traces its origin to East Africa, especially Morocco. It is also the staple diet of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya as well as parts of Middle East including Israel. Couscous is made from semolina or coarsely ground durum wheat and consists of small grains. But it can also be made from millet, barley and other grains.
Traditionally, couscous used to be made in homes by women but now that process is mechanized, as the making of couscous is very labor intensive. Semolina is sprinkled with salt water and hand rolled to form small pellets. Then, this is sieved and small grains which fell through were once again sprinkled with salt water and sieved till all the semolina is made into couscous. Check out simple couscous recipes, including couscous salad.
Now-a-days, readymade couscous is available in almost all supermarkets. It is already steamed and all you need to do is just add boiling water and a little butter. In a few minutes, the couscous is ready to serve with any side dish of your choice. You might also get flavoring along with the readymade couscous. One can also buy the traditional couscous but this needs to be steamed before consuming.
Couscous is cooked in a special kind of vessel known as Couscousier, which consists of two parts. The bottom part is in the shape of a pot and you need to cook the vegetable, meat, spices and herbs in this part. The top part is filled with small holes in its bottom and sits on top of the lower vessel. Use cheesecloth to cover the holes and add the required amount of couscous.
The couscous is cooked by the steam arising out of the bottom part when you cook the ingredients. This is a comparatively lengthy process and takes about 30-40 minutes. Take care that the couscous does not become too sticky. It has to be fluffy and all the grains need to be separate. Traditionally couscous is steamed two to three times. As it does not have any particular flavor or taste, the couscous absorbs the flavor of the broth.
There are many varieties of couscous including Lebanese, Israeli and Moroccan couscous. Though they may vary in size yet their cooking methods are similar. Couscous is usually served with meats, vegetables, stew and gravy. Couscous can also be topped with sugar, syrup or sauce and served as breakfast or supper.
Couscous can be served in many exotic ways – along with lamb curry or cooked with vegetables, tossed in a salad or served as dessert with almonds, sugar and cinnamon. It serves as a wonderful bed for main dishes too. It is versatile and can be easily incorporated into your dishes. You can whip up tasty couscous desserts with raisins, almonds, dried apricots, honey and spices.
Recipe couscous with Lamb
Boneless lamb chunks
Ginger garlic paste
Fresh mint and cilantro
Cook lamb pieces in a heavy pot of water along with spices, ginger garlic paste, mint and cilantro and saffron. Let it cook on low flame till the lamb is tender. You can thicken the stew by adding chunks of zucchini or carrots and turnips. Finally mix in the instant couscous and let it cook along with the lamb stew.
With imaginative use of ingredients and herbs, you can whip up quick and tasty couscous salads. This can serve as a starter to your meal. Cook the couscous for the couscous salad. Mix together ingredients for the salad. Finally blend in the couscous and serve. You can use herbs of your choice or even flavorings. Add a dash of olive oil. Squeeze a bit of lime for added zest. A couscous salad is light and makes for an ideal summer meal. You can blend couscous salad with fresh chives or chickpeas, lentils or chopped olives, artichokes or Feta cheese.