Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Pineapple Express’ where Seth Rogen is driving in his car and says: ‘Couscous: the food so nice they named it twice’. Being a Berber Moroccan myself who is brought up eating couscous like the Italians eat pasta I can only agree with Seth on this. Couscous is delicious, convenient and very versatile and I make sure I always have it in my pantry, ready to be turned into a salad or served with a fragrant brothy stew. It’s a great vehicle for all sorts of flavour combinations.
Couscous is a traditional dish of the Berbers who actually call it ‘Seksu’ which means ‘well rolled’ or ‘rounded’ in Berber. The more common name ‘couscous’ comes from the Arabic language. For years, couscous-preparing knowledge was passed on from mother to daughter in the Berber society. Knowing how to prepare couscous was an important element of a young woman’s dowry. So my mum did her duty and taught me how to prepare couscous the proper way 🙂 . Little did she know that her daughter would have such a busy job, that she rarely would have the time to cook the couscous the proper way. Instant couscous is just too convenient, especially when you come home and dinner needs to be on the table in an hour, max.
Couscous is no longer an important meal just for Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians. Nowadays it’s enjoyed all over the world. When I say couscous, I mean the traditional small granules that look like grains, but are actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina (a type of wheat). Couscous is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until minuscule little balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and later steamed in a couscoussier (unless of course you use the instant version). A couscoussier is a traditional double-chambered food steamer. It is typically made of two interlocking pots made of metal. The bottom part, which is the larger one, holds water or broth used to produce steam. The smaller pot, which is designed to be placed on top of the first, has a lid, and a perforated bottom. It holds the couscous in place while allowing the steam to enter and reach the couscous.
So, when I say couscous I don’t mean giant couscous. Who ever thought of that name? There’s no such thing as giant couscous. Don’t get me wrong, there is something which kind of looks like couscous, but is much bigger than the normal couscous, but I would never call it giant couscous or pearl couscous or Israeli couscous, simply because it’s not couscous. These products are not as similar as their names lead you to believe. Let me give you some of the differences: whereas couscous is traditionally dried before it’s cooked, the big ‘couscous’ (which is actually called p’titim) is toasted in the oven, giving it a slight toasty flavour. Where the real couscous is prepared by steaming, p’titim is boiled, like pasta or prepared in a way risotto is also prepared.
Having said that……………….I love p’titim, we just need to stop calling it couscous. I read an article saying that experts in Algeria are working on a project to include North African couscous on UNESCO’s world heritage list. That’s the other extreme in my opinion, but I understand why they would want to do that.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!
- 120 ml honey
- 2 tbs rose harissa
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 8-10 (1.2kg) free-range chicken drumsticks
- 4 tbsp olive oil (2 for frying and 2 for the 'dressing')
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 spring onions
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp tumeric
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 300 g P’titim (or pearl couscous for the ignorant 😉 , read my blogpost)
- 400 g chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 15 g parsley, chopped
- 15 g mint, chopped
- 120 g pomegranate seeds
- 100 g almonds, toasted and chopped
Add the honey, rose harissa, crushed garlic, lemon zest and half the lemon juice into a large bowl. Season with a 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper and stir to combine. Add the chicken and turn to coat and let it marinate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 220°C when ready to cook. Line a baking tray with baking paper and transfer the chicken to the baking tray. Roast the chicken for 35-45 minutes or until cooked through and golden, basting every 15 minutes with the mixture from the bowl.
Cook the p’titim according to packet instructions (mine took 10 minutes), then drain in a colander, cool under cold running water and let it drain thoroughly.
Fry the onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and spring onion and fry them for another 3 minutes. Then add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and season well with 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper. Fry for one more minute and then add the chickpeas also for one more minute. Take off the heat and add the other half of the lemon juice and the chopped parsley and mint (save a little bit of the herbs for garnish). Tip everything in a shallow salad bowl that will also fit the cooked p’titim. Add the p’titim to the salad bowl when it’s completely drained. Peel the pomegranate and toast the almonds and add them to the bowl together with 2 tbsp of olive oil and combine until everything is mixed.
Arrange the p’titim salad on a large platter, top with drumsticks and scatter with extra herbs.