Couscous is a traditional Moroccan dish made from crushed durum wheat semolina. It’s neither grain nor pasta yet its culinary use is extraordinary. Today, we will learn how to cook couscous perfectly in this brand new post!
What is Couscous?
Have you ever heard about couscous? Couscous or kuskusi in Arabic is a staple pasta dish of Northern Africa particularly in the countries of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and Libya. It is made from crushed durum wheat semolina and about 3mm in diameter, so it appears to be tiny steamed balls.
Its name was derived from the Arabic word kaskasa, meaning “to pound small” and later on has gained different names as it traveled the globe.
Basically, couscous is made from the combination of the husk and crushed semolina, the hard part of the grain of wheat. It is then mixed with water to let them stick together, forming pellets or tiny round pearls.
Couscous is also eaten in France, where it is recognized as traditional food and has also become well-known in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece.
Taste and Texture
The process is intricate in making couscous, however, there are many ready-made and instant couscous available at the groceries. A well-cooked couscous is light and fluffy, not sticky or loose.
It is traditionally cooked in a food steamer with the based used for cooking meat or vegetable stews. The couscous absorbs the flavors from stew being cooked under.
Instant couscous commonly found at the groceries are dried and been pre-steamed. Preparation time is usually lesser and faster compared to regular and traditional cooking.
Couscous comes in three main types: white, whole wheat and Israeli. The white couscous appears the softest variety while the whole wheat is similar in size with the white one, yet it has a nuttier flavor and denser texture. The Israeli couscous, on the other hand, is bigger, rounder and close to pasta-like.
Many debates enclose a battle between couscous and rice. Some say it is way healthier than rice while others are skeptical about couscous.
Others believe it is just a contest between rice in Asia and couscous in the Middle East. However, a cup of wheat couscous gives 6 grams of protein, 36 grams of carbohydrates, and fat. Couscous is also rich in Selenium, a potent antioxidant that aids your body to rejuvenate damaged cells and minimizes inflammation.
It also plays a major role in proper thyroid gland function. The same antioxidant is responsible for reducing the risks of heart attacks and eliminating cancer cells.
Is it Better than Rice?
Couscous and brown rice may have similarities to the way they were prepared but that does not mean they both have the same nutritional contents. In fact, couscous is more of a pasta than a grain.
Rice and couscous can be used alternatively if your diet says so. However, there are some health values that couscous is better than rice.
- It has 176g of calories compared to 216g in brown rice
- 6g of protein per cup than 5g of protein in rice
- Couscous has a GI rating of 65 per 150g while white rice has 72 per 150g
However, couscous is not gluten-free as compared to rice. If you are suffering from diabetes, choose brown rice instead but carefully select the variety that will work for you. You can read our previous post on what rice is best for diabetics.
How to Cook Couscous Perfectly
Traditionally, couscous is intended to be served with flavorful stews. However, it can work with almost any dishes since this ingredient easily goes well with anything.
Unlike pasta, couscous is cooked by means of steaming. If you only have instant couscous available at home, only reconstitute and steam to make it fluffy and perfect.
Here is how to reconstitute and steam plain couscous:
- In a medium-sized bowl, add the couscous and 1/2 teaspoon (Kosher) salt. Mix well
- Now add half a cup of broth from the stew you want to pair it with. Make sure that the mixture is well covered with the broth or you can add up to 1 cup if needed. Check to see if the water is about half an inch from the couscous. Let it sit for about 20 minutes until the entire broth is incorporated.
- When the liquid was thoroughly absorbed, mix well with a fork or use your fingers to rub together. Ensure that there are no lumps present.
- Add about one or two tablespoons of olive and continue to mix until the couscous is soft and free of lumps.
- Place the reconstituted couscous on a steamer tray. Place a cheesecloth beneath so it won’t be dropped into the stew. You can also use the couscous steamer if available.
- Put the steamer tray on the stew pot when it starts to simmer. Steam for 20-30 minutes.
Now there you have it, a perfect fluffy couscous. Not too soft, not too mushy! You can now incorporate it with your favorite recipes.
Moroccan Couscous Recipe
Now that your couscous is ready, you can try exploring new dishes to serve for dinner later! Here is an authentic-style Moroccan Couscous Recipe shared by Bosh TV!
The traditional way of cooking couscous might be tiresome and takes longer time but of course, once you understand and practice more, the preparation becomes easy. Good thing, there is instant couscous available at the groceries, you only have to check on the labels for its cooking method as well as the corresponding health benefits.
In the mid-section of the blog, we have finally learned how to cook couscous perfectly! You can try this at home and make your own couscous dish.
Certainly, food has a rich history. They were not just made to satisfy our cravings and hunger but rather fill our minds with a vibrant past.
Just like couscous, it has traveled far and wide and has special marks in the hearts of people who have tasted this wonderful pasta. If you are looking for a great alternative to rice, think about couscous. It has better nutrients than white rice!