Plate of Couscous with Tagine
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Couscous - Moroccan
Morocco
  -   Couscous
Serves:
Effort:
Sched:
DoAhead:
6 side  
**
1.5 hrs  
Most

Generally a last dish in Morocco to make sure you are stuffed, but we infidels can use it as a side, as a main, or however else we please. This method closely follows the "official" method set down by Paula Wolfert. I like this method for the flexibility provided by the long hold time allowed but generally modify it a bit - see Note-4. For other variations see Note-5.




2
6
a/r
1
3/4
a/r
a/r
c
c

t
c

Couscous (1)
Water
Stew (2)
Salt
Water
Olive Oil
Water
  1. Wash COUSCOUS in a large shallow pan with 3 times as much Water. Stir briefly with your hands, then strain out excess water, quickly so the grains are still wet. Spread them in a rimmed baking sheet or similar appliance and let them swell for 10 minutes.
  2. Work Couscous with your fingers to break up all lumps which may have formed and let rest at least another 10 minutes.
  3. Set up your steamer as described in Note-3. Bring Stew or Broth to a boil in the bottom pot. Place the steamer pan on top, seal as necessary and pour in 1/4 of the Couscous. Steam uncovered for 5 minutes, then gently add the rest of the Couscous. Lower the heat to moderate and steam for 20 minutes, uncovered.
  4. Dump the Couscous into a shallow pan and spread with a wooden spatula or spoon. Mix 1 t Salt into about 3/4 cup of Water (for our 2 cups of couscous). Sprinkle this evenly over the couscous.
  5. As soon as Couscous is cool enough to handle, coat your hands with Olive Oil and work the grains again to break up any lumps. The oil on your hands very lightly oils the couscous to help keep the grains separate. Sprinkle a little more water if it feels too dry. Let rest for at least another 10 minutes. At this point the couscous can be covered with a damp cloth and held for several hours.
  6. Return the Couscous to the steamer pan and steam for an additional 20 minutes.
    IF your stew is done and can't stand another 20 minutes, steam over water, otherwise steam over the stew.
  7. Mound onto a serving plate, work a deep depression into the top of the mound and ladle in some of the stew.
NOTES:
  1. Couscous:   North African couscous is composed of very tiny rough grains. The large and small bead couscous are Middle Eastern (Lebanese). Beware of "instant" couscous or other names or precooked - they won't work with this method. For details see our Couscous page.
  2. Stew:   Properly this is a Tagine, an aromatic stew which will be served before or with the couscous. Steam from the cooking stew infuses the couscous with its flavor. An aromatic broth can be used if you aren't preparing stew.
  3. Steamer:   You need a steamer of sufficient size to contain the stew below and the couscous in the steamer pan which must not touch the stew. The top pan must seal tightly to the bottom. In Morocco a strip of cheese cloth or similar is wet, dusted with flour and wrapped around the rim of the lower pot to seal so all steam must go up through the steamer pan. If your steamer pan has holes too large to hold the couscous line it with a single layer of muslin. The traditional kiskas (couscousiere) consists of a deep lower pot and a medium deep steamer pan. Very nice modern stainless steel couscousiere with aluminum core bottoms can be found on the Internet for less than US $90.
  4. My Methods:   To save storage space for a kiskas, I have successfully used a 28 cm Chinese steamer. This is a much lower and wider device than the kiskas. The pot is thin stainless which risks burning the stew in spots so I put a comal (flat steel plate for roasting tortillas) between the pot and the flame to spread the heat.
    While this setup works with the formal Paula Wolfert method, I am more likely to do my stew in a large sauté pan and steam the couscous over broth or water with some aromatic vegetable trimmings, spices and slices of ginger in it. This allows a more vigorous boil so a messy fabric seal between pot and pan isn't as important, and timing factors are easier to control.
  5. Other Methods   Some recipes skip the second spreading and second steaming, calling for the couscous to be steamed covered 20 minutes over the stew and then served. This may result in couscous that is less fluffy. Some recipes call for oiling the couscous before the first steaming but PW says this produces a less tender couscous.
  6. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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