How To Prepare Moroccan Couscous

Couscous is originally a Berber dish and for this reason couscous is a staple dish in many North African countries. In Morocco, we have different types and versions of couscous but if you mention “couscous” in Morocco, people will usually assume that you are referring to the most basic version of the famous dish: the 7 vegetables couscous.

The 7 vegetables couscous is composed of semolina grains granules of durum wheat, topped with vegetables and meat cooked in a super tasty and comforting broth.

For a long time, I used to think that couscous was one of these difficult recipes designed only for experienced cooks, and for a long time I didn’t try to make it although I was missing it very much.

A few years ago, my university friends asked me to cook a traditional Moroccan couscous for a dinner party and… I couldn’t say no. Thanks to my mom who gave me a very detailed recipe, my first couscous was pretty good, there were no leftovers! But I have made it countless times since that day and I have learned a lot. Hopefully you will benefit from that and you will find the recipe as simple as I do today.

The reason I love couscous is because although its cooking time is quite long, its preparation is very quick. You can get the recipe started and do many things by the time the meal is ready to be served.

Couscous is also one of those perfectly balanced and flavoursome dishes that allows you to help yourself two, three times and never feel guilty by the end of the meal.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped (200gr)
  • 600 gr braising beef or lamb (off the bone), trimmed of excess fat. (i.e. lamb shoulder, cracked lamb shank, lamb or beef neck, beef shin). If your meat is on the bone, take into account the weight of the bone and make sure you get about 125 gr of meat per person.
  • 250 gr canned chickpeas (or 125 gr dried chickpeas soaked in cold water overnight), drained.
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Generous pinch of saffron
  • 1 coriander bouquet, tied
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped in 2 cm large pieces
  • 1 small cabbage (600gr), quartered through the base
  • 1 large sweet potato (250 gr), peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 300 gr turnip, peeled and cut into 3 cm lengths
  • 3 carrots (300 gr), scraped and cut into 4 cm lengths
  • 200 gr courgettes cut into 5 cm lengths (not necessary for baby courgettes)
  • 300 gr butternut squash or pumpkin, seeded if necessary and cut into large chunks
  • 4 cups dried couscous (650 gr)

METHOD

In a large casserole (minimum 5 litres capacity), heat the olive oil over medium heat and add in the onions, the meat, the spices, salt, pepper and half of the tomato pieces. Turn the meat occasionally until lightly browned, about 10 min.

Add 1.5 litres of water and the chickpeas. Bring to the boil, reduce to medium low heat and place the coriander bouquet in the casserole. Cover with a lid and let gently simmer for 50 min.

Prepare the vegetables and set aside.

Now is a good time to start preparing the raisins and the couscous. The raisin and the plain couscous. The raisins are optional but if you like sweet and savoury dishes, you will love this addition.

Carefully discard the coriander bouquet and place the cabbage, turnip and carrots in the broth, cover the casserole with a lid and let it simmer for 35 min. Make sure the vegetables don’t stay at the surface and are well inserted in the broth, otherwise they might not cook evenly.

Add the potatoes to the broth and cover the casserole for another 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place some of the broth (about 6 tablespoons) in a separate casserole or large deep skillet over medium heat and add in the courgettes and butternut pieces. Cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes until fully cooked. Flip the courgettes and butternut halfway through cooking. The reason why we cook the courgettes and the butternut separately is because once cooked, they become very fragile and they might break if you cook them in the broth with the rest of the vegetables.

At this stage, your broth and vegetables are ready to be served. Adjust the seasoning by adding salt if necessary.

Using tongs, carefully remove the meat from the casserole and cut the meat into smaller individual pieces. To serve, place warm couscous grains in a plate and top with meat, vegetables and some tablespoons of the broth to make it moist. Add raisins .

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