Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Oct 24, 2011 08:37 AM

Can you help me with a recipe for couscous?

Years ago, I was in Jaffa and had one of memorable meals that you wish you could recreate:
It may have been the setting, it may have been the company, (artist/Antique delaer Denny Pinkus, now passed on) it may have been that the food was really exceptional, or it may have been a combination of all of those elements… but I have not been able to find, nor have I been able to make the same dish:

We ate at a restaurant called Gueta and had the couscous with a vegetable broth that included chick peas and one with beef and beans.

The vegetable broth for that couscous was beyond good… can anyone tell me how to make it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Bring about 4 1/2 cups of water to a boil, add 6 tsp Paprika, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, and a medley of coarsely chopped vegetables to suit your taste. Carrots, zucchini, turnips, celery, broccoli, tomatoes, are a few examples. Salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer 10 - 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add some chopped tomato and simmer an additional 3 - 5 minutes. Drain the vegetables, saving the liquid, and set aside. Cook the reserved liquid over medium heat until reduced by half. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and the couscous. Mix in 2 cups of couscous; cover allow to rest (covered) 5 - 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, check for seasoning and re-season as needed.
    You can serve the vegetables, or not, depending on your menu. I might prefer to puree them and use them in a soup or other dish.

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao

      thank you that sounds lovely
      the dish we ate had large-ish chunks of vegetables in the broth, but they weren't cooked to death so I'm wondering if maybe after a proper vegetable stock was made, they put in additional vegetables (sweet potato or something orangey, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots and chick peas) so when you ate, you ladled the broth and the veg over the couscous

      1. re: cgarner

        There is another method where the vegetables are served with the couscous. It involves preparing a broth with the vegetables, adding the tomatoes when the vegetables are still somewhat crisp, and cooking for just a couple of minutes. The vegetables are then removed, the broth reduced by nearly 3/4 or its original volume, and then returning the vegetables to the broth just before serving. Using that method, the couscous is cooked separately in its own vegetable broth and the vegetables served atop the plated couscous. I use that method only if I'm including some meat in the recipe but it's a matter of individual choice. May I suggest you experiment with the recipe and all the possible variations you might think of and find an approach that pleases you most. Once you've worked with this dish several times you'll get a sense of what spices, herbs work best for you, how much moisture you want in your finished dish and it'll become a staple in your meal preparation routines.
        I also prefer to use Israeli couscous (the larger variety, and sometimes difficult to find) but that too is a matter of choice.

    2. A bit more work, but with results closer to what you had in Israel:

      Tunisian couscous-

      soak dry chickpeas overnight (about a cup)
      buy medium-small grain couscous (I do not like large "Israeli" couscous- I do not consider it couscous at all)
      ras al hanout seasoning powder- you can't really approximate this at home- pretty easy to find:
      veg of your choice, but typically:
      a potato
      three or four small zucchini
      a few tomatoes
      harissa paste (fresh is best- you can make your own very easily)
      a bit of tomato paste

      If you have a couscoussier, that works best. Large double boiler with small holes in the bottom of the upper portion. I believe Williams-Sonoma sells one.

      Peel all veg except the zucchini, which should be peeled in a striped pattern and set aside for later. Place in bottom pot, cover with plenty of water, add chickpeas, bring to a boil and then to simmer and cook for at least an hour. Meanwhile, place dry couscous in large bowl and hot water from a teakettle a bit at a time (usually around two cups) to couscous and work with your hands to distribute moisture and break up any clumps. Place couscous in upper portion of steamer (let household chickens clean up dropped crumbs of grain). Steam 15-20 minutes above veggie broth, remove couscous again to the big bowl, and repeat the adding water breaking up clumps step. Do this a total of four times. In the last ten minutes of cooking, add zucchini, salt, tomato paste, and ras al hanout (about 1/2 cup) to broth.

      Two choices for the next step: mix a bit of broth into the couscous, or serve as is.

      Put the finished couscous into a large shallow bowl, flatten, place cooked veggies and chickpeas onto top of couscous, ladle broth into a pitcher (and add some harissa if you like- or just serve on the side), and bring to table. If everybody's seated, it makes a nice show to pour broth all over the couscous and veggies. Hand out some spoons and dig in. Traditionally served with a whole, large roasted and salted Hatch-style chile for each person.

      *This recipe is better with chicken, beef, lamb or merguez, fresh sardines, or a whole fish in the lower pot.

      General tip- if you don't want to do all this, I recommend never dumping your dry couscous into broth. This is how we generally do couscous in the States, and the result is a dough-cake. You can slowly add hot water in steps to a large bowl and work with your hands and use a microwave to do the cooking if you don't have a couscoussier. Light, fluffy couscous is a pretty amazing thing, and really tastes much better than the results most couscous box directions will give you.


      2 Replies
      1. re: SaltyRaisins

        salty raisins, thank you! I don't have any mid-eastern groceries near me, so I think I'll get ras al hanout online.

        (also, now I know why even the "best" couscous I've ever made hasn't come close to that which I had in Israel... I wasn't cooking it properly)

        instead of a couscousier, can I use a fine mesh steamer insert over the pot of broth and then put the lid on top of that?

        1. re: cgarner

          Sounds like a solution to me. Make sure the pot is deep enough so the couscous sits above the broth. Let us know how it comes out.