How often is your couscous clumpy with a gloopy or gritty texture?
Follow the instruction below and hopefully each grain of your couscous will be separate and the texture fluffy.
Couscous is traditionally steamed and fluffed to separate the granules. Most couscous we buy in this country is of the instant variety. Boiling and stirring this instant couscous can reduce quick-cooking couscous to a sticky, starchy mush. Like pasta, couscous does not have much of a flavour itself, so just adding water makes for a bland outcome.
Basic couscous Enough for 4 people
250g couscous *(instant)
230ml boiling water or chicken/vegetable stock
(if using a stock cube with added salt, do not add any more salt)
2 dessert spoons olive oil or melted butter
zest of 1/2 an orange and 1 dessert spoon each of orange and lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
- Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl.
- Add the lemon juice, olive oil and salt if adding.
- Pour the boiling liquid over the couscous, it should just be covered.
- Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, lid or foil.
- Leave for at least 10 minutes.
- Using a fork, uncover the couscous and gently, but firmly fork the mixture, starting on the top to fluff up.
- Serve immediately, or set aside and reheat in an oven (keep very well covered), or microwave.
The couscous will keep for at least 3 days in the fridge and freezes reasonably well.
There are many variations you can make, just a few suggestions:
Add before boiling liquid –
- Finley sliced preserved lemon
- Lemon, orange or lime zest
- Chopped fresh parsley, coriander, thyme, rosemary
- Currants, sultanas
- Sun-dried tomato slithers
Add after fluffing –
- Pomegranate seeds
- Pine nuts
- Olives whole or sliced
- Chopped basil
- Roasted vegetables
- Small chunks of spicy sausage
*most couscous we buy in supermarkets and speciality stores is instant. It is not always clear on the packaging. If you are using couscous which is not instant, it will need to be steamed.
Couscous is made from semolina (wheat). The semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets, sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then sieved. Any pellets which are too small to be finished granules of couscous and fall through the sieve will be again rolled and sprinkled with dry semolina and rolled into pellets. This process continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny granules of couscous. This process is very labour-intensive. In the traditional method of preparing couscous, groups of women would come together and make large batches over several days. These would then be dried in the sun and used for several months. Couscous was traditionally made from the hard part of the durum, the part of the grain that resisted the grinding of the relatively primitive millstone. In modern times, couscous production is largely mechanised, and the product is sold in markets around the world. In countries where millet is a staple, this is used instead of wheat. (information from Wikipedia)
(picture from Wikipedia)
Properly cooked couscous is light and fluffy, not gummy or gritty. Traditionally, North Africans use a food steamer (called a كسكس kiskas in Arabic or acouscoussière in French). The base is a tall metal pot shaped rather like an oil jar in which the meat and vegetables are cooked as a stew. On top of the base, a steamer sits where the couscous is cooked, absorbing the flavours from the stew. The lid to the steamer has holes around its edge so steam can escape. It is also possible to use a pot with a steamer insert. If the holes are too big the steamer can be lined with damp muslim, tea towel or cheesecloth. (information from Wikipedia)