Couscous: A beginner’s Guide with Cooking Tips and Recipe Ideas

Couscous – the food so nice they named it twice. Couscous is one of the most popular foods in the entire world, and what’s more is that it is one of the easiest foods to prepare and is jam-packed full of flavour, as well as healthy nutrients as well. If you yourself are a couscous lover, or perhaps you’ve yet to try this fantastic dish then this is the article for you. Contained within we’ll be taking a look at exactly what couscous is, how it is prepared, hints and tips on making the perfect couscous dish, plus a look at a few simple yet highly delicious serving suggestions. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, let’s learn more about couscous.

What is Couscous

What is Couscous

What is couscous? – Couscous is actually one of the staple food sources of North Africa, particularly Morocco, and has been enjoyed in the region for literally centuries upon centuries.

Couscous is made specifically from ground semolina flour, though what makes it so unique is that instead of mixing the flour with a set amount of water and egg until it forms a dough, couscous is instead made when the semolina is carefully rubbed between moistened hands so that the flour combines with just enough liquid so that it forms numerous different tiny grains. Here the grains are then dried thoroughly and are then ready to be prepared in various different methods. Traditionally it is gently steamed and then fluffed up in order to separate the granules though there are many methods of making perfect couscous, which we’ll be taking a look at right now.

Couscous preparation tips – One of the great things about couscous is that once prepared, it is incredibly easy to prepare and requires very little prep work at all. You can of course make your own, or you can purchase a number of high quality couscous products to make life even easier for you. Here are some handy tips.

  • Use the correct water to couscous ratio – To create perfect couscous, Moroccan couscous is always recommended and should be used with the correct amount of water. Ideally you should have a ration of 1 cup of water to 1 cup of couscous, so a ratio of 1:1.
  • Never use too much water – Some people make the mistake of using too much water when preparing couscous, which can reduce the contents to a starchy and sticky paste, which is what you don’t want. The idea is for the grains of couscous to absorb the water, not stew in it.
  • Never boil couscous – Another common mistake that people tend to make is to add couscous to a pan of boiling water, and continue to boil the water on the stove or hob. In reality, you will want water that has just come off the boil, then you basically leave it alone.
  • Leave in the water for 5 – 6 minutes – Once you’ve added your couscous to the water, you will want to leave it in the pan, with the lid on to help it steam through, for around 5 – 6 minutes. After this time, the grains should have plumped and swollen up and you can gently fluff them through. Always fluff it gently with a fork for best results.

Serving suggestions – Before we wrap things up, let’s take a quick look at a few simple, yet extremely delicious couscous serving suggestions:

  • As an accompaniment – Couscous can be used as an accompaniment to main dishes in much the same way as rice is used in Indian and Chinese cuisine. In fact, another staple Moroccan dish, the lamb tagine, works incredibly well with freshly made couscous.
Photo Credit: Kat, Flickr

Photo Credit: Kat, Flickr

  • Alone with chicken stock – To really increase the flavour, instead of water, use chicken stock or broth to make your couscous and you’ll be amazed by just how delicious it tastes, even on its own.
Couscous with Chicken, pivack, Flickr

Couscous with Chicken, pivack, Flickr

  • With salad – Another popular use for couscous is as a main ingredient in salad, with a generous serving being scattered over the top of fresh green salad leaves.
Photo Credit: Dana McMahan, Flickr

Photo Credit: Dana McMahan, Flickr

  • As a jacket potato filling – If you love jacket potatoes, why not combine couscous with a some fresh vegetables, tuna, or cottage cheese perhaps and then use as a filling for a jacket potato?

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