Couscous is a popular Berber dish made with semolina traditionally served with meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. It is a staple food throughout Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. Couscous name is derived from Berber seksu meaning well rolled, well formed, rounded. Couscous is known by different names around the world such as Seksu or Kesksu in Arabic which is pronounced as kuskus.
In Tunisia and Libya it is called as kuseksi. Couscous was elected as the third favorite dish of French people in 2011 in a study by TNS Sofres for magazine Vie Pratique Gourmand and the first in East of France. To this day, couscous is known as the ‘North Africa national dish’. Couscous was known to the Nasrid royalty in Granada and in the 13th century a Syrian historian from Aleppo includes four references for couscous.
These early mentions show that couscous spread rapidly, but generally that couscous was common from Tripolitania to the west, while from Cyrenaica to the east the main cuisine was Egyptian, with couscous as an occasional dish. Today, in Egypt and the Middle East, couscous is known, but in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya couscous is a staple. Couscous was taken from Syria to Turkey in the 16th century and is eaten in most of the southern provinces. It is also staple of Sicilian cuisine.
Couscous is traditionally made with semolina but in some regions it is also made from coarsely ground barley or pearl millet. In Brazil, the traditional couscous is made from cornmeal. Traditionally, North Africans use a food steamer to properly cook the couscous which is light and fluffy and not gummy or gritty. This steamer is called as kiskas in Arabic or a couscoussiere in French. The base is a tall metal pot shaped rather like an oil jar in which the meat and vegetables are cooked as a stew.
On top of the base, a steamer sits where the couscous is cooked, absorbing the flavors from the stew. The lid to the steamer has holes around its edge so steam can escape. It is also possible to use a pot with a steamer insert. If the holes are too big the steamer can be lined with damp cheesecloth. The couscous is generally served with vegetables (carrots, potatoes, turnips etc) which cooked in a spicy or mild broth or stew and some meat which includes chicken, lamb or mutton.
The couscous is usually steamed several times until it is very fluffy and pale in color. It is then sprinkled with almonds, cinnamon and sugar. Traditionally, this dessert will be served with milk perfumed with orange flower water, or it can be served plain with buttermilk in a bowl as a cold light soup for supper. Another way to eat couscous is as a dessert; it is prepared with dates, sesame, and pure honey, and locally referred to as "maghrood".
In Tunisia, it is made mostly spicy with harissa sauce, it is served with almost everything, including lamb, beef, camel, and poultry. Fish couscous is Tunisian specialty; it can be also made with octopus in hot red spicy sauce. Couscous in Tunisia is served on every occasion; it is also served sweetened as dessert called masfouf, mostly during Ramadan.
The instant couscous dish from Morocco is easy and doesn’t actually take a long time. To prepare this scrumptious dish, firstly wash and chop up the vegetables. Add some oil into a large frying pan and heat. Add the onion and fennel and fry for 1 minute. Reduce heat and add the other vegetables. Simmer for 5 Minutes. Meanwhile put the cous-cous into the vegetable stock and leave for 5 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Add all the spices to the vegetables and finally stir in the cous-cous.
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Couscous is among the healthiest grain-based products. It has a glycemic load per gram 25% below that of pasta. It has a superior vitamin profile to pasta, containing twice as much riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate, and containing four times as much thiamine and pantothenic acid.
Couscous (spicy vegetable couscous) is made from two different sizes of the husked and crushed, but unground, semolina of hard wheat using water to bind them. Semolina is the hard part of the grain of hard wheat (Triticum turgidum var. durum), that resisted the grinding of the relatively primitive medieval millstone.
When hard wheat is ground, the endosperm—the floury part of the grain—is cracked into its two parts, the surrounding aleurone with its proteins and mineral salts and the central floury mass, also called the endosperm, which contains the gluten protein that gives hard wheat its unique properties for making couscous and pasta--that is, pasta secca or dried pasta, also called generically macaroni. Couscous is also the name for all of the prepared dishes made from hard wheat or other grains such as barley, millet, sorghum, rice, or maize. Enjoy Cooking!