For the second recipe of my Moroccan series, I have decided to present a staple of North African cuisine, couscous. In countries all across the top of Africa and into the Middle East, one will find a large platter of fluffy couscous at the centre of most meals. The subtle flavour of couscous is perfect for sopping up sauces of the many savoury meat and vegetable dishes at a meal, much like rice in Asian cuisines. The difference being, couscous is actually a form of pasta, not a grain like rice. Today, most of the couscous we buy is “instant”, taking only 10 minutes to prepare, but the traditional “long-cook” couscous is done in a steamer called a “couscoussier” and takes about 45 minutes to prepare. I don’t know if my recipe is traditionally Moroccan, but it is my favourite way to make couscous and the only recipe I have served for years with Moroccan or Middle Eastern entrées. I have adapted it from a recipe in Bonnie Stern’s “Simply HeartSmart Cooking”. This pilaf will make a superb accompaniment to many of the other dishes I plan to present in this series. I really hope you enjoy it!
1 cup couscous
1 ½ cups boiling water
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup red onion, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup fresh plum tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons raisins
¼ cup chopped pistachios
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Place couscous in an 8 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and cover with the boiling water. Cover tightly with foil and let stand for 10 minutes until the water is absorbed. Fluff gently with a fork. Set aside.
Cover raisins with hot water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside
In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the red oinion. Sauté the onion gently until soft. Add the cumin, turmeric and cinnamon and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat until mixture is very thick. Add raisins.
Add vegetable mixture to the couscous and toss gently. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Add cilantro and toss.
Top with chopped pistachios.
Serve with vegetable, meat or seafood tagines.