I’m having my niece over for dinner in a few weeks and I’ve decided to make a foray into Middle Eastern cookery as it seems to have a lot of nice vegetarian options - tabbouleh, couscous, falafel, baba ganoush and so on.
Now, I’ve only ever made pre-cooked couscous, the kind where you just pour boiling water or stock on and let it absorb for 5 minutes. But I have seen instructions for making “proper” couscous which undergoes multiple steamings and hand-rubbings to separate the grains.
Has anyone made both kinds, and is the difference worth the extra effort?
Are you talking about getting actual semolina flour and making the couscous, not just preparing the couscous for consumption? Fuck no, I’ve never done that. I’ve made other kinds of pasta by hand and from scratch, but unless I’m making my own fettucini noodles or gnocchi (okay and sometimes cavatelli mmmm cavatelli), I don’t see the need.
Ah, phew. I was afraid I was dealing with a real go-getter here.
Couscous is just a form of pasta. There are two main varieties, the regular somewhat fine couscous and the larger pearl or Israeli couscous. The regular stuff is what cooks in like 5 minutes of sitting in boiling water. The pearl you cook for 8-10 minutes or so in boiling water like any other pasta.
There’s about a million ways to season it and present it with other foods (veggies, etc.). Think of it as the starch part of a meal, much like rice or other forms of pasta.
I’ve used my steamer to make couscous in a way that my Moroccan friends’ approved of. Made a lamb stew in the bottom, and used the top to steam the couscous. Periodically removed the couscous and spread it out and incorporate water. Return to steamer. Etc.
It was tasty, but I’m not sure it was worth the extra effort.
Yes (in both senses - I usually make the pre-steamed, but I sometimes make the couscous that needs to be steamed for a while, and I’ve made the actual couscous grains from semolina from scratch as an exercise in Medieval cooking),
Sometimes yes to the steamed, no to the from-scratch - the difference between steamed and pre-steamed is that the steamed absorbs the flavours of the stew it’s cooked with, the pre-steamed just tastes of couscous and maybe butter or oil if you beat that in. This is fine if you’re serving it with a stew you couldn’t steam the couscous over (like tagine, which is what I usually make) or if it’s just steamed over water, but I like the absorption of the flavours when steamed over a different stew (like kosksi bil djaj). The effort’s about the same as making risotto.
But making it from real scratch isn’t worth it, it’s tedium in a way making pasta noodles really isn’t (I love my pasta machine)
And strictly speaking, couscous is North African, not Middle Eastern (although it’s been adopted)