If you're an Algerian girl, and you don't know how to make some variation of couscous...stop right there. What are you doing with your life? When are you planning to learn?! Couscous is crucial to your culture. I mean, you can basically just throw away any dreams you had of marrying an Algerian guy, because if making couscous isn't at the top of the skills section on your marriage resume, he's not giving it or you a second look. Yes, it's that serious. Don't worry though, I'm here to help you. Making couscous is easier than you think.
First off, let me just say that couscous in a box, you know the one that is ready in five minutes, yeah, don't ever use that. That is not acceptable. Real couscous, is not prepared in five minutes. Real couscous is moistened with cold water, set to rest, tossed with oil, steamed for about 15 minutes, tossed with water again, set to rest, tossed with oil again, and then thoroughly steamed one more time for about 10 more minutes. I know it sounds like a lot, but it's really simple and will result in the plumpest, fluffiest, and tenderest(is that a real word?) grains of couscous ever.
So, that's it. The hard part is over. The most important part of any couscous dish is getting the couscous part right. If you can do that, you're good. Now onto the sauce. The sauce is even easier to prepare than the couscous. Aside from the washing, peeling, and chopping of all the vegetables, you're basically just throwing everything in a pot and cooking it until it becomes edible. That's all there is to it. It'll take about two hours, after which you'll have a rich, mouthwatering sauce with the right amount of spice, filled with wholesome vegetables, to drench your couscous in. Perfect for a winter day, if you ask me.
Algeria has over 40 different provinces and each province has their own way of preparing couscous, using their own choice of vegetables and spices. This recipe belongs to my mother, who learned it from her mother, who was raised in the province of Médéa. And now the recipe has been passed on to me, and I'm passing it on to all of you.
Even if you're not Algerian, or planning to marry an Algerian, I still think this dish would make a wonderful addition to your recipe book, as well as your dinner table.
It's delicious, it's comforting, it's healthy, and it's peculiar name is guaranteed to spark some giggles. And who doesn't love giggles?
Algerian Couscous with Vegetables طعام بالمرقة
Ingredients:For the couscous:
2 cups of medium-grained couscous
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 plum tomato, halved
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
pinch of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup lentils
1/4 cup dried fava beans, soaked in water overnight
1/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
4 small carrots, chopped into chunks
1/4 of a medium cabbage head, halved and separated into leaves
3 small potatoes, chopped into halves
1 stalk of celery, chopped into chunks
1 stalk of cardoon, chopped into chunks
1 medium sized turnip, halved
½ a medium zucchini, chopped into half moons
Directions:For the couscous:
Wash the couscous in cold water and drain immediately. Let it rest in a strainer for ten minutes. Fill the bottom of a couscoussier (or any other large pot that can be fitted with a steamer) with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, spread the couscous in a large shallow pan and pour 1 tablespoon of oil over it. Using your fingertips, lift and rake the grains to separate them and break up any lumps that have formed.
IF the couscoussier’s seal is not tight: When the water boils, before putting the couscoussier top in place, dampen a paper towel and place it across the circumference of the rim of the bottom part of the couscoussier(as shown here). This is done to effectively seal the top and bottom parts of the couscoussier and to make sure that the steam goes right up through the couscous as opposed to through the sides.
Pour the couscous into the top part of couscoussier and steam for 15 minutes. When it’s done, spread it out into the large shallow pan again. Fill a small bowl with 1 ¼ cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt; mix together. Gradually sprinkle the water over the couscous, while separating and stirring the grains gently with your hands. Set aside and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Then add two more tablespoons of oil to the couscous, and again lift and stir the grains gently. Steam one last time, for about 10 minutes (or until you see steam coming up from the couscous).
Transfer couscous to a large serving bowl; add butter and toss together until butter melts.
For the sauce:
In a large saucepan, add oil and sauté the chopped onion and halved tomato with the salt, spices, and butter for about 3-5 minutes. Cover with about 7 cups of water. Add lentils, fava beans, chickpeas, and all the vegetables except for the zucchini and cook on medium high heat for an hour. After an hour, add the zucchini and two more cups of water. Continue to cook on medium high heat for about 30 more minutes. Serve on top of couscous.