Couscous

Couscous. Couscous or couscous is used in this recipe, which is the wheat that has become the “rice” of the Arab world. This couscous has become a culinary identity of the Arab world, despite the “cultural” variations of the different peoples that compose it. They are the Arab part of the Mediterranean , as the national dish of many of those countries, which has become internationalized by the rest of the world. Although the recipe may present some difficulty in finding one or two ingredients, it is interesting to follow the steps of its preparation, due to its conception.

Summary

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  • 1 Historical Background
    • 1 Cuscucera
    • 2 Couscous semolina
  • 2 recipes
    • 1 Vegetable and chicken couscous
    • 2 Couscous marrakesh
    • 3 Cous cous salad
  • 3 External links
  • 4 Sources

Historical background

The now internationalized couscous or couscous.

This is the main product of North Africa , where it seems to come from, it is the national dish of Morocco , Algeria and Tunisia , the cous-cous or couscous, according to some, does not have certain roots, even though historians tell us that the Berbers already used it in the 11th century , we find the first reference written in an anonymous 12th century cookbook .

With the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors, they carried with them the tradition of couscous, the popularity of which spread rapidly. The Moors consumed it especially during religious rites and celebrations, and for this reason the Inquisition considered it “prohibited food” and vetoed its consumption. Couscous can actually be considered “a cultural food”, being similar to rice and bread, it is economical and very nutritious, it could also be preserved for a long time, making it the ideal food for the caravans of nomadic peoples , who made great use of it.

This small food also allowed the expression of national and religious identity. Women usually prepared it during family gatherings for weddings, births and parties and this makes the couscous identify with the idea of ​​love, jewel and comfort. Couscous is also the main food of Friday (Day of Prayer) and of the celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan , and thanks to this use, it is also associated with an idea of ​​abundance, fertility, fidelity and divine blessing. During their preparation women were forbidden to speak of dire arguments: on the contrary they were to speak of religious matters, prosperity, and good intentions.

This traditional dish requires a fairly long preparation time. The couscous is cooked in a particular steam pot and must be moistened with water, butter and oil. It is made and works with the hands every 10-15 minutes, this will prevent too compact grains from forming. It is ready when the grains appear moist, soft, but well separated from each other.

It is known that there are regional varieties in the preparation of the cous-cous (the Algerians prepare it with tomato and a wide variety of legumes , the Moroccans with saffron and the Tunisians with chickpeas and spicy harissa, the basic ingredients are vegetables of the moment, legumes , meat or fish It can also be prepared as a dessert, with almonds , cinnamon and sugar, and served with milk perfumed with orange blossom syrup .

Cucumber

The three-part cucumber showing the pot, the steamer and the lid.

To prepare the couscous, a “cuscucera” is used, but in some places it is called a luscious. This aluminum or stainless steel container is usually made up of three parts, the bottom one is a narrow and tall pot (where food is cooked), the middle one is lower and wider than the previous one with perforations in the bottom (where the couscous is steamed), the upper one is the lid that also has some small perforations.

The two-part corkscrew showing in full cooking showing the couscous.

There is also a two-part version. The lower part is a kettle almost always domed and provided with handles; in it the broth of vegetables, meat or simply water is poured. The upper part, called keskés, whose bottom is perforated with small holes, receives the semolina or the food that must be steamed. The lupine bowl is closed with a lid also full of holes, for steam evacuation. It is also used for steam cooking. In the past, in North Africa , the lupine bowl was a simple clay pot filled with holes, or braided esparto grass, in which the semolina was placed. It was placed on a normal kettle, filled with water or broth.

In reality they are steamers in which the use of the lower part for cooking the rest of the ingredients allows several of their aromas to pass to the couscous although it is not in direct contact with the wheat during this cooking. Some recipes in certain countries, especially after migrations, are cooked together after individual precooking.

Couscous semolina

Contrary to wheat flour, the fundamental thing in wheat semolina is that the grain is not ground, but crushed. It is something similar to “stacked” Cuban coffee, which is not ground but crushed on the pile.

In this case, instead of using rotating millstones to grind or grind the wheat grains. These go through a series of “hammers” that crush them instead of grinding them. Remember that traditionally in the “western” world, in addition to wheat flour, the grain is insufflated to be used in smoothies or for breakfast; they are made into flakes (the so-called quacker) to make a porridge. But also appears, already modernly, whole wheat; If you use this to make a couscous, you have to add more water. Not to be confused with wheat bran which is actually a by-product of the husking and grinding of wheat.

Recipes

The couscous, in current Arabic is called “t’aam”, is the national dish of the three countries of Mogreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia). And it is served as a second course, after the mechuí in Algeria, and the tajines in Morocco. It is eaten by modeling with your fingers small balls of “grain”, which are immediately put in the mouth. Wheat is an ingredient used in other dishes of Arab origin and that are processed in a different way from this couscous.

Although the basic elements are the same in all three countries, semolina and broth or marl, the ingredients vary. In Algeria, the alcuzcuz is accompanied by chickpeas, broad beans, a large number of legumes and vegetables (artichokes, zucchini, potatoes, aubergines, thistles, fennel, peas) and sometimes meat. The mesfuf, a couscous prepared with fresh beans and raisins, is reserved for the dawn meals in the month of Ramadan; it is eaten by drinking buttermilk (leben) or curdled milk (raib).

Precisely that the same main ingredient, wheat, I prepared in a different way along with the incorporation of other ingredients has separated the kitchens of this Arab countries. On the other hand, the use of already cooked couscous in other dishes, regionalizing them. Here we show both forms in addition to a third dish. Also eaten in Sicily , France and the United States , couscous is popularly known as a variety of pasta, making delicious dishes.

Vegetable and chicken couscous

Vegetable and chicken couscous served in a serving.

Ingredients for four people):

  • 250-300 grams of Couscous
  • 2 or 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 two rather small zucchini
  • a rather small red pepper
  • a fresh onion
  • a leek
  • 2 carrots not too big
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 not very large tomatoes
  • a piece of pumpkin
  • a handful of green beans
  • black peppercorns
  • cumin grain
  • a sprig of fresh mint
  • Salt
  • extra virgin olive oil

Preparation: Vegetables are prepared, breaking them into rather small pieces. Tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, squash, garlic, leek and fresh onion have their skin removed. The seeds are removed from the red pepper. Green beans have the tips and threads removed from the sides. The chicken is chopped.

Put the container under the couscous on the fire (medium or medium-high heat) and add a drizzle of oil to cover the bottom. Add the chicken and sauté for five minutes. Chicken is removed. Leek, onion, garlic and red pepper are added to the couscous. He cooks for five minutes. Carrot and green beans are added. He cooks for another five minutes. Pumpkin and zucchini are added. Five more minutes of frying.

Preparation of vegetable and chicken couscous ready to start cooking.

We take advantage of this moment to prepare the spices and the cous cous. We put the pepper and cumin grains in a mortar with a couple of pinches of salt and crush them. From the mint sprig we are left with only the leaves. The amount of spices to use depends on the taste of each one. Others can be used, such as coriander, thyme, paprika, peppermint, ginger, white pepper, basil, saffron, or others, each according to what you want and your family or friends allow.

Of the package of cous cous we use approximately half, that is, about 250 to 300 grams. We take a glass of water and add a teaspoon of salt. We heat it, dissolving the remains of salt. We add it to the cous cous (which we have deposited in a deep plate) and stir to make it homogeneously moistened.

Returning to the couscous, we add the tomato, the chicken, the mint and the spices, braising another five minutes. We take the opportunity to pour the moistened couscous into the perforated bowl of the couscous. With your fingers we remove the couscous so that it is loose and evenly distributed. Add two glasses of hot water to the pot and stir (throughout the cooking we must keep looking at the stew so that it does not run out of broth, adding the necessary water, and so that it does not stick). We place the perforated container on top of the pot and cover it. Occasionally we uncover until we see the steam come out, at which point we leave to cook for about fifteen minutes (with the lid on).

We remove the perforated container with the cous cous. We remove this with a wooden spoon until it comes loose. Add a glass of hot water (without salt) and stir again so that it is evenly moistened and is well distributed. We put the perforated container back on top of the pot. We let cook another fifteen minutes. We remove the perforated container again and remove the couscous with a wooden spoon until it is released and is well distributed. This time there is no water. We replace and let cook another fifteen minutes. After this time, the couscous must be prepared (it is like the paste, it inflates by doubling in size, it softens and becomes lighter). If not, it is allowed to cook a reasonable time until it is done. If the optimum point has already been reached, the perforated container is removed, pour the couscous into a deep tray and stir it with a wooden spoon so that the grain is loose. We look at the stew, if it has little broth for our taste we add water, if it has a lot we let it consume but it is preferable with a little broth. We rectify the point of salt and pour it into another deep tray.

To serve we put on a plate, separated, a portion of cous cous and a portion of stew. At mealtime it is advisable to mix.

Couscous marrakesh

A marrakesh couscous served.

Ingredients

  • Half a kilo of couscous
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Saffron
  • Cumin
  • Peanut oil
  • 1 1/2 meat lambboneless
  • 2 chickens
  • 1 kg of carrots
  • 2 green peppers
  • 1 kg of tomatoes
  • 1 kg of pumpkin
  • Coriander (crushed leaves or seeds)
  • Peas or beans
  • Chickpeas
  • grapesraisins

Preparation The classic preparation is steamed and takes time, now it is easier, prepare 1 pound (500g) of couscous. A container with boiling salted water in the same amount that we are going to introduce of couscous grain when boiling. Cover and cook for 1 minute over high heat and 4 minutes over low heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil or a pinch of butter. Go around and you’re done.

Sauté 2 onions cut with coriander, salt, crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon saffron, cumin seeds powder in 1/4 peanut oil until lightly browned, add lamb meat cut into pieces and a liter of water. Add 1 chicken and cut into 8 pieces cook for 30 minutes, add 1 pound of carrots cut into 2-centimeter pieces after peeling, 2 green bell peppers cut into strips, 1 pound of peeled tomatoes, 1 pound of peeled pumpkin and cut into 3-centimeter-wide slices, a handful of peas and 1/2 pound of raisins. Cook for about 15 more minutes. Season with salt to taste. Place the couscous in a tray, hollow it in the center, placing the stew in it, pour the sauce over the couscous and garnish with parsley.

  • Tips: Find African or Arab food stores to buy.

Cous cous salad

(Also known as tabuleh or tabulé)

A salad with couscous and peppers.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of cous-cous
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 20 pitted olives
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • a sprig of fresh parsley
  • a sprig of peppermint or mint (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Preparation First we make the couscous so that it cools down once cooked. Traditionally it is steamed, but it is easy to find precooked couscous whose preparation is very simple: We put the 2 cups of couscous in a large container. We heat the same amount of salty water and, when it boils, add it to the semolina container and cover it. Let it rest for about 4 minutes and stir to make sure it absorbs all the water. We add a splash of oil and stir so that the grain is loose.

Add the lemon juice and oil to the couscous container, season with salt and pepper and let cool. While it is cooling, we finely chop the parsley, the peppermint (or the mint) and the onion; cut into small squares the tomatoes, the carrot and the olives. We mix all the ingredients and let cool in the fridge, to serve it cool

  • Comments: To remove the itchiness of the onion we can, once minced, leave it submerged in a mixture of water and vinegar (or lemon) during the preparation of the salad and at the end add it, washed and drained, to the source. It is an ideal first dish to accompany with a second of legumes.

 

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