Since Biblical times, couscous has been the most famous dish of North Africa and different versions of this beloved stew have made their way to Israel via Jewish immigrants from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, the three nations that make up the region known as the Maghreb. Originally devised by wandering Berber tribesmen some 4,000 years ago, the dish is based on simple-to-prepare meats, hard wheat semolina and a variety of vegetables and side dishes. Despite its seeming simplicity, dinners based on couscous are nearly always an excuse for creating a festive atmosphere. As there are a nearly infinite varieties of any stew, couscous is no exception. Algerian versions will invariably include tomatoes; Moroccan offerings will use saffron; and Tunisian couscous will be highly spiced. Side dishes, to be added to the stew, vary widely, depending on the whims of individual cooks. Wherever it is served, however, couscous will be accompanied by a bowl of hot sauce to be added to each diner's portion in accordance with his or her tolerance level for such condiments. In traditional Arab homes and restaurants, the finished dish is heaped onto a large plate, the couscous (which is the semolina that makes up the bulk of the dish below), meat and vegetables on top. The accompanying soup, hot sauce and side dishes are served in separate bowls. Diners, seated cross-legged in a circle around low table then eat from this common plate, scooping up the couscous with wooden spoons or chunks of pita bread. In restaurants and more modern homes, etiquette is more relaxed and the use of forks, knives and spoons is considered perfectly appropriate.


cup olive or corn oil
1 kilo stewing beef or lamb
1 small cabbage, quartered
3 zucchini squash, halved
3 small carrots, halved
2 stalks celery, halved
1 turnip, quartered
2 Tbsp. tomato puree
1 tsp. each salt and pepper
tsp. each sweet paprika and dill seed
1 small chicken, cut into convenient pieces
1 kilo couscous (semolina)
4 small potatoes


2 cups spiced chickpeas
kilo mutton meat balls
cup hot sauce (home made or commercially prepared)
kilo sliced fried eggplant
kilo or more well fried merguez sausages or spicy link sausages

In a large, heavy kettle heat the oil and place into this all of the ingredients except the chicken, couscous and potatoes. Stir well for several minutes while cooking over a medium flame. Reduce to a medium-low flame, add warm water to cover generously and cook, covered for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Skim the surface as necessary during the cooking process. Add the potatoes and chicken and cook for another 45 minutes. Dampen the semolina with cup water and mix gently but well. Put the semolina in a colander which will fit on the kettle with the meat and chicken mixture and place the colander on so that the steam will cook the semolina. The semolina should be put on the kettle for the last 30 minutes of cooking. Serve the semolina, meats, vegetables and soup in separate bowls. Each of the side dishes should also be served in separate bowls so that guests may make combinations that suit their personal tastes. Serve hot. May also be served with an assortment of olives, hot peppers and various pickles.


Serves 6 - 10.

area : North Africa

course : side dish


source : Daniel Rogov's “The Wonder of Couscous”, through Marion [IRE_tag]