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« Changing of The Guard by Farid Zadi | Main | Bahrain...my story of a culinary adventure in the Middle East by Ed McGaugh »

July 26, 2005

Couscous by Farid Zadi

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I received an endearing email the other day from a woman who is half Algerian asking me for an Algerian couscous recipe she remembers having as a child growing up in Germany. The  recipe is based  on her grandfather's who has a restaurant in Paris and she sent me a list of possible ingredients. I will try to recreate the dish for her.

As far as widely available commercial brands of couscous are concerned I prefer Sadaf or Rivoire. Their couscous tends to be finer than the other brands and fine couscous is what's found especially in Eastern Algeria and at Algerian restaurants. I find the texture of coarser couscous to be unappealing as a matter of personal taste.

Ingredients:
1 package couscous (500 grams)
1 stick of unsalted butter
salt to taste
ice cold water as needed

Method:
1) Place the couscous in a large round shallow dish. Stir in 1 cup of ice cold water. Let stand for 20 minutes. The couscous will stick together one large, stiff mass. Massage the couscous with your fingers using a circular raking motion untill all the grains are seperate.

2) Place the couscous in a steamer as shown above or a couscousier over boiling water. The water level should be low enough so that there is no risk of it touching the bottom of the steamer. Let steam uncovered for about 30 minutes.

3) Turn the couscous  into the bowl. Sprinkle with about about 1/4 cup of cold water and 2 tablespoons of salt, add 1/3 stick of butter and incorporate the ingredients with your hands using a circular raking motion. You can use a fork if the heat bothers you. Let stand for about 30 minutes, rake with your hands again and return to steamer for a second steaming.

4) Steam for 20 minutes, turn out the couscous, add about 1/4 cup of cold water, more salt to taste  and 1/3 of the butter, fluff the couscous using the same raking motion, let stand for 30 minutes and return to steamer for final steaming.

5) Turn out the couscous into the bowl, add more salt and butter to taste. The finished product should be light and fluffy, with an al dente texture. It should not be gritty or mushy.

Cous4_3

Serve on a round platter in a mound as shown.

The reader remembers eggplant, zucchini, chickpeas, bell peppers, tomatoes and some meat possibly chicken. Based on this description I offer this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken jointed, you can purchase this already cut up seasoned with salt and pepper
1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight or 1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 lb of zuchinni, trimmed and cut into 2 1/2" cylinders then cut in half.
1 lb of tomatoes concasse (peeled, seeded and chopped)
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 lb of eggplant diced
1 lb of bell peppers diced
Olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of spice mixture

Method:

1) Brown the chicken in a skillet for about 5-10 minutes on each side, the breasts only need to be browned on the skin side.

2) Season the onions with salt and sautee the onions in  a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for about 15-20 minutes in a dutch oven untill soft and slightly caramelized, add the garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for a bout 5-10 minutes.

3) Add the browned chicken to the dutch oven, add water to cover,  1 tablespoon of spices, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 50-60 minutes. Add the carrots and zuchinni.

4) Season bell peppers and eggplant with salt and saute in a skillet with some olive oil for about 15 minutes, add to the chickenm stir, taste, adjust seasoning if desired, add more of the spice mixture if desired. Cook untill the chicken and vegetables are tender.

To serve place the chicken and vegetables decoratively on a platter and the broth in a tureen.

Spice mixture
4 parts cumin
1 part coriander
1 part fennel

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Comments

THIS LOOKS LIKE AN INERESTING RECIPE WHICH I PLAN TO TRY SHORTLY. I AM SOMEWHAT CONFUSED OVER THE JUXTAPOSITION BETWEEN STEPS 5 AND 6 IN THE RECIPE. SHOLD THEY BE MELDED TOGETHER SOMEHOW? OR SHOULD THIER ORDER BE INVERTED??
THANK YOU

Chef Zadi,
My husband is Algerian and he makes a very excellent cous cous (the "right" way, steaming several times). We have noticed that when we re-warm the cous cous in the microwave, sometimes it tastes better than before, lighter and fluffier. I know this may be a heresy, but have you experimented with a shortcut to preparing cous cous with the microwave? We would like to eat cous cous more often, but our busy schedules prohibit us from making it very often (and my husband won't eat "instant" cous cous). Perhaps a microwave recipe might make this possible?
Thanks

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