Did you know? Couscous, normally found and sold in the rice section of your local grocery stores is not a grain but actually a type of pasta! It’s a great food item to go with savory dishes and has a fascinating history! So in today’s video I’ll be going over the history, the different types and some cooking tips about the legend of Couscous!
Alright, so couscous of today consists of small granules or pellets made from semolina flour (made from durum wheat). It resembles farina, polenta, or grits but slightly larger.
The term “Couscous” originally referred to the method of processing the flour, and couscous was often made from millet, barley, and other grains.
Couscous is considered one of the oldest known pasta. In fact, many historians argue that the use of couscous pre-dates the use of any other known pasta, as references to couscous have been found dating back as far as the 10th century. Scholars debate whether couscous originated in West Africa or North Africa, but today, couscous is considered a Moroccan specialty.
To cook couscous, it is traditionally steamed and fluffed to separate the granules. Boiling and stirring can reduce quick-cooking couscous to a sticky, starchy mush. Like most pasta, couscous does not have much of a flavor itself. Thus couscous dishes are made with flavored stocks, herbs, and spices, with vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and/or meat added or used as a topping.
Most packaged couscous is considered the instant variety and will cook very quickly off the stove by absorbing a boiling liquid.
However, authentic couscous (roughly-ground hard durum wheat) will require significantly more time and a good steaming vessel called a couscoussiére.
Some couscous Cooking Tips
Always identify which type of couscous you have purchased (instant or traditional) to properly plan cooking time.
Couscous may also be cooked like some rice or grits. Heat butter, add couscous and stir to coat, add stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and cook (no peeking!) until liquid is absorbed. Fluff to separate.
If you lack a steamer, a heat-proof colander inside a stockpot will work fine. If the colander holes are large line the bottom with cheesecloth.
Should you use the long traditional method of steaming couscous, covering the pot is not recommended. The condensation can drip onto the grains and make the couscous mushy.
As well as being a delicious side dish, couscous can also be eaten as a porridge, in salads, or in desserts.
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