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Tunisian couscous

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4-6 (or one with lots of leftovers) Medium
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Ingredients (10)

  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • half cup ras al hanout
  • small zucchini, courgette
  • two large turnips
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • one potato
  • 4-5 cups dry small-medium grain couscous
  • fresh harissa paste
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

This is from my French-Tunisian sister-in-law, direct from her mother in Bir Ali bin Khalifa, Tunisia. Also influenced by kouskousei I’ve eaten in Tunis (Sidi bou Said)

Instructions

  1. 1Soak dry chickpeas overnight (about a cup)
    buy medium-small grain couscous (I do not like large “Israeli” couscous- I do not consider it couscous at all)
    ras al hanout seasoning powder- you can’t really approximate this at home- pretty easy to find: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ras_el_h…

If you have a couscoussier, that works best. Large double boiler with small holes in the bottom of the upper portion. I believe Williams-Sonoma sells one.
Peel all veg except the zucchini, which should be peeled in a striped pattern and set aside for later. Place in bottom pot, cover with plenty of water, add chickpeas, bring to a boil and then to simmer and cook for at least an hour. Meanwhile, place dry couscous in large bowl and add hot water from a teakettle a bit at a time (usually around two cups) to couscous and work with your hands to distribute moisture and break up any clumps. Place couscous in upper portion of steamer (let household chickens clean up dropped crumbs of grain). Steam 15-20 minutes above veggie broth, remove couscous again to the big bowl, and repeat the adding water/breaking up clumps step. Do this a total of four times. In the last ten minutes of cooking, add zucchini, salt, tomato paste, and ras al hanout (about 1/2 cup) to broth.
Two choices for the next step: mix a bit of broth into the couscous, or serve as is.
Put the finished couscous into a large shallow bowl, flatten, place cooked veggies and chickpeas onto top of couscous, ladle broth into a pitcher (and add some harissa if you like- or just serve on the side), and bring to table. If everybody’s seated, it makes a nice show to pour broth all over the couscous and veggies. Hand out some spoons and dig in. Traditionally served with a whole, large roasted and salted Hatch-style chile for each person.
Disclaimer:
*This recipe is better with chicken, beef, lamb or merguez, fresh sardines, or a whole fish in the lower pot.
General tip- if you don’t want to do all this, I recommend never dumping your dry couscous into broth. This is how we generally do couscous in the States, and the result is a dough-cake. You can slowly add hot water in steps to a large bowl and work with your hands and use a microwave to do the cooking if you don’t have a couscoussier. Light, fluffy couscous is a pretty amazing thing, and really tastes much better than the results most couscous box directions will give you.
Cheers!

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