A staple of North African cuisine, couscous has been gaining
popularity in western cuisine because of its easy preparation,
versatility and its ability to take on the flavours of the
ingredients it’s cooked with. From salad to risotto, couscous is
the ideal ingredient for a healthy, flavourful meal.
Popular in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, couscous is often
served with meat, fish and vegetables. Each country seasons
couscous differently. Moroccans use saffron, which creates a yellow
coloured dish and might top couscous with fish and a sauce of
raisins and onions. Algerians add tomatoes to their couscous and
Tunisians create a spicy dish with harissa sauce, a hot pepper
Archaeological evidence found in North Africa may prove couscous
has been part of mankind’s diet since the ninth century. Although
its exact origins are not certain, it’s gained popularity
throughout modern times, largely due to migration from North
African communities, especially in France where surveys have shown
it’s one of the most popular dishes.
How to Use It
Often refereed to as a grain, couscous is actually a coarsely
ground semolina pasta. Its texture is nuttier than long-grain rice
and the instant variety (regular or whole wheat) cooks in less time
than most rice or pasta. It’s low in saturated fat, cholesterol and
sodium and is a good source of selenium.
Traditionally North Africans use a special steamer pot called a
couscoussiÃ¨re to cook couscous. This pot has a base steamer to
hold meat or vegetables; the couscous sits in a steamer on top so
it can absorb all the flavours from the stew. The lid to the
steamer has holes around the edge so steam can escape. You can
achieve a similar effect at home by using a large pot with a
Preparation and Storing
However, since most couscous found in Canadian grocery stores is
the tiny grained Moroccan kind that has been pre-steamed, all you
have to do is mix it with boiling water or stock, cover the pot and
wait for the couscous to swell, usually about five to 10 minutes.
When correctly prepared, it has a tender, moist taste and light,
Specialty grocery stores may carry traditional couscous that has
to be soaked and then slowly steamed. Israeli couscous is smaller
than pea size and is cooked like pasta. Lebanese couscous (also
called maghrabiyeh) is cooked by soaking in hot water for 30-45
minutes. Your grocery store also offers flavoured instant
Couscous keeps in an airtight container in the cupboard for up
to one year.
Because of its quick prep time, couscous is a great alternative
to rice or pasta when you don’t have time to stand over a hot
stove. Mix it into salads to add substance to your veggies or serve
alongside salmon or chicken.
If you’re really pressed for time, pour tomato sauce over it for
an exotic take on a typical pasta meal. For a tasty finish to a
meal, sprinkle cooked couscous with almonds, cinnamon and sugar for
a sweet desert that rivals anything with chocolate!
Try it Today: