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Featured Ingredient - Morocco



Information about Couscous



Go to:-    Morocco Main Page Morocco Speciality Dish  |  Cooking by Country Main Page


couscous cooked.jpg (62071 bytes)Couscous is the national dish of Maghreb (the African countries of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria)  and has been a staple of the diet in North Africa for over than 1000 years. It has also become another "designer" ingredient in many European countries as well as South America and the United States.

Some believe the name is said to have originated from the hissing of steam as it passes through the holes of the steamer in which the grain is cooked, however it is more logical to believe it derived from the classical Arabic word kaskasah, meaning "to grind" or "to pound." You'll see why below.

Couscous.jpg (15726 bytes)It is a common misconception that couscous is a grain - like bulgur wheat, but it is actually processed, like pasta, from tiny hand-rolled balls of semolina flour, which is a derivative when wheat is milled (ground). Traditionally it is made in the homes, often with many women gathered together, a sort of "couscous party". The wheat semolina and flour is rolled by hand with a small amount of cold water . Once small "grains" are achieved, a little oil is added. 

Households in North Africa make up large quantities of couscous, which is dried and stored and can be used over a period of several weeks. However for most of us, this method has been replaced by industrial manufacture and couscous is now available worldwide. Much of the couscous sold in stores now is quick cooking or instant.

Whilst couscous is low in calories and a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, on its own, it is rather bland. In North Africa, it is served as an accompaniment to meat, fish and poultry dishes, much like rice or potatoes. There are also many meat and poultry dishes which incorporate couscous and there are endless ways of flavouring it with a variety of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices.

Allowances and basic cooking of Couscous

Allow 100g/4oz of uncooked couscous per person.

Place in a bowl and add  sufficient boiling water or stock so it is covered by 6mm/ inch of liquid. Cover tightly with clingfilm and allow  to stand for about 10 minutes at which point check to see that it is cooked. It is ready when soft and aerated. If it isn't quite cooked, add a little more boiling water, mix, re-cover and leave for a few more minutes. Once cooked, add some butter or olive oil and fluff up with a fork. You can also now add further flavourings.

You will find some couscous recipes on both the Moroccan main page and throughout this site. Just use the search facility to find them all.

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