Couscous is widely used in Moroccan cuisine. It's called semolina, but becomes couscous after being steamed and turning fluffy. In this interview, chef Hassan M'souli from Sydney's Out of Africa restaurant explains how to prepare couscous.
- 4 litres (128 fl oz) water
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 500 g (1 lb) couscous
- pinch of saffron threads soaked in 3 cups water
- 100 g butter
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Pour 3 litres of the water into the base of the couscoussier. Add half the salt, the bay leaves, peppercorns and cinnamon sticks (see note), and bring to the boil.
In a saucepan, add the remaining water and salt and heat until almost boiling.
Place the couscous into a shallow bowl. Cover with half the saffron water and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir the couscous. Using your fingers, separate the grains and any lumps.
Place cheesecloth around the lip of the bottom part of the couscoussier and put the top part in place (this prevents steam from escaping).
Spread the couscous evenly into the top section. Wait until the steam starts to come through the grain (making sure no steam escapes between the two pots), and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Transfer the couscous to a shallow bowl. Add 1 cup of the remaining saffron water, stirring. Leave to stand for 10 minutes. Return couscous to the couscoussier and steam for a further 5 minutes.
Once again, transfer the couscous to a shallow bowl. Add the remaining saffron water. Using your fingers, separate the grains and any lumps. Add the butter and mix through with your fingers (butter or oil is always added after the last steam to seal the grain).
Couscous can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 week, and can be served hot or cold.
• To make savoury couscous, follow the same steaming process used above, however, use vegetable, fish or meat stock in the base of the couscoussier. These can be flavoured with bay leaves, peppercorns, onion and garlic. There are numerous combinations of flavours and not a lot of limitations. Instead of using butter to seal the grain, you could use extra virgin olive oil or smen (Moroccan aged butter).