Couscous – a versatile carbohydrate
A quick and simple guide to using couscous
When I think of couscous my mind fills with images of golden domes of the stuff, sitting steamed and dressed with cinnamon, dates, plump sultanas, powdered sugar, butter and roasted almonds upon great painted plates. It sits proudly waiting to soak up saffron chicken or dark earthy beef and lamb dishes. I am a great fan of this clever and versatile carbohydrate, so am deeply disappointed if I ever spy dry, cold, pale or worse still, clumpy couscous.
Couscous has now become a mainstream carbohydrate, with a little love it can steal the show.
Despite popular belief, couscous is a pasta, not a grain and treated with a little care can be a spectacular salad, side or as a veggie the main dish. It originates from and is still a staple of the North African region that includes Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya. It is made of semolina and wheat flour but can be made with whole wheat, millet and barley.
The instant variety most commonly sold in supermarkets simply needs to be soaked in boiling water but traditionally a couscoussier is used. It’s a type of steamer with a bigger bottom pot where the stew can be cooked, it is the steam from the stew that cooks the couscous, which sits snugly on the top in the perforated bit. It is a slow and loving process that transfers flavor and makes light plump couscous, ready to soak up all the flavor of the stew underneath when served. Not many of us have the time to cook it in the traditional way, so we buy the instant, without the influence of the stew, we lose the flavor and the whole concept of couscous can be lost and it is in danger of being bland and pushed to the side. If it is to be served as a stand alone dish you just need to add a little more oomph. See a couple of my ideas below.
It is so easy to prepare. For a serving of four, you will need 200g of instant plain couscous a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 250ml of boiling water. Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add the oil. Use your fingers to rub the oil into the couscous until it looks like wet sand. Pour over the water and cover with a tea towel and leave to 10 minutes. I use a fork and stir a couple of times. When the couscous is cool enough to handle get back in with your hands and break down any lumps with your finger tips, lifting your hands up and letting the grains fall back into the bowl. You now have a blank canvas of a carbohydrate. If it is being served with a spicy stew it needs nothing more than some melted butter.
If not you have to make the magic happen yourself by adding your favorite salad ingredients. It is as easy as that.
couscous rounds coming soon