Couscous, also called couscousi, is a typical preparation of West African and Middle Eastern cuisine and today it is also known and appreciated in Europe, especially in Spain and France. Over time this ingredient has also arrived on the Italian coasts.
What is it?
It is the most popular ingredient in North African cuisine, which in countries such as Algeria or Morocco is part of the daily diet. In fact, couscous means “food” in Arabic, which may give an idea of the importance of this food in Maghreb cuisine.
It consists of durum wheat semolina that is ground until obtaining a flour that is kneaded with water until obtaining a granulated product that is allowed to dry. The result is small grains similar to pasta that is mainly consumed as a garnish.
Through the processing of durum wheat semolina this particular grain is obtained which is then steamed and preserved. Couscous is a very versatile ingredient that can be served both hot and cold with preparations based on meat, fish, or just vegetables. Preparing couscous is very simple, you just need a little attention and a few tricks to avoid making a mistake.
Mistakes not to be made for a perfect couscous
- Be careful not to boil it
Couscous should not be cooked like a cereal, therefore it should not be cooked in boiling salted water. The quantity of water or broth with which to wet the couscous must not exceed the ratio of 1: 1.
- Season it too much
The couscous grains absorb the liquids and flavors with which they are seasoned, be careful not to overdo it with the oil, the advice is to season the ingredients that you will combine with the couscous. For this same reason, do not use salt, it should not be added to couscous.
- Shell after a few minutes
After wetting your couscous with hot water or broth, cover the bowl where you placed the couscous and wait for it to finish absorbing the water before starting to shell with a fork.
Types of couscous
Pale yellow in color, the types of couscous depend on the degree of milling of the wheat so that we can distinguish between:
- Fine-grained couscous;
- Medium grain couscous;
- Coarse-grained couscous.
In turn, the treatment of the cereal when grinding also leads us to distinguish between refined couscous and whole-grain couscous. When the grain casing, rich in fiber, is not removed by grinding, we are talking about the whole couscous, while if it is removed, it is refined couscous that, apart from fiber, loses nutrients such as vitamins of group B.
How to cook it the traditional way?
The traditional preparation of couscous is simple and is based on basically steam cooking through the well-known couscous. This is a kind of casserole with a strainer on top of it where the couscous is deposited.
At the bottom, in the casserole, goes the cooking liquid. This can be a broth, or water that will eventually turn into the broth. And it is that, in addition to the liquid, other ingredients are usually introduced, especially vegetables, so that they are cooked. With this, they in turn flavor the couscous, at the same time that they are later used to serve with it.
the proportion of broth or water is slightly more than twice as much liquid as couscous.
Dishes from couscous
Popular in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, or Egypt, in Europe it is highly appreciated in France and Sicily, and the recipes are diverse, both in sweet and savory preparations.
Salty couscous preparations, in general, are made with a variety of vegetables. From here, the use of chickpeas is also quite widespread. But it can also be made with other legumes, such as beans, peas, etc., depending on the area. Also in the tradition of the country, you can do with chicken, lamb, rabbit, and fish. And spices such as the traditional Moroccan ras al hanout can be incorporated
Due to its characteristics, cooked couscous is also ideal to incorporate in salads, instead of rice or pasta (see here recipes for pasta or rice salads).
On a sweet level, in Morocco, a traditional recipe is couscous with cinnamon and sugar, and also in Algeria, there are couscous preparations with grapes, raisins, dates, and nuts that are served with sweetened milk.