couscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausagescouscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausages

In an ideal world, everybody would celebrate everybody’s holidays together, discovering similarities and understanding differences. All of this often happens quite easily when sharing a traditional holiday meal, around the same table, especially when it’s COUSCOUS.

Couscous, instead of rice or pasta, is the easiest thing to do. I don’t mean the meal that is also called COUSCOUS but the actual wheat semolina grains that are easier to prepare, whether in smaller or larger portions.

A lot of couscous making has been going on, especially as we near the end of the Muslim Ramadan month of fasting, during the daylight hours and eating during the sunless hours. How difficult it must be to cook and prepare food without tasting it, since everything is prepared in the daytime of course.

Couscous is no longer an exotic dish, especially in France, the way a curry dish is now considered very English, due to colonial pasts and integration of foods and intermingling of tastes everywhere. It is common in the southern regions of the northern Mediterranean countries, it is customary in the South Mediterranean, North African and the Near Eastern countries and becoming more popular around the world.

It is often prepared with the RAS EL HANOUT spice mixture, which provides the distinctive overall taste and is different to every household. An either hot or milder mixture of 15 and up to 30 different spices, with mostly cumin, coriander, ginger, clove, turmeric (I add less than usual), cinnamon, allspice, fennel, and cayenne with the addition of dried lavender flowers or rose petals (which I replace with some orange zest).

A vegetable stew is always made with large chunks of carrots, turnips, zucchini, onion, tomato and with seasonal variations in the colder months like adding squash or pumpkin, sweet potato or cabbage  or with fennel, peppers, or eggplant in the warmer months, but I added 2 small baby potatoes too because I had them laying around. The chickpeas are a "must" and added at the beginning if pre-soaked or at the end if pre-cooked.

Normally, a homemade family couscous dish is made with only 1 type of meat, usually braised in the vegetable broth and then grilled, such as chicken legs or thighs or small cuts of lamb or beef or the easiest being grilled spicy merguez sausages. I stayed simple and used only a mixture of spicy lamb and beef merguez sausages and homemade herbed poultry sausages, but that is rarer in a traditional household preparation and more of a Westerner and/or restauranter approach. 

When invited to a home or eating out, you will usually be served a COUSCOUS ROYALE with 3-4 types of meats, including sausages and kefte meatballs, because it’s more festive. In Tunisia, it is most often prepared with seafood or fish and there are annual international contests in Sicily for the best couscous dish, usually won by Tunisians but in 2019, it was won by a Senegalese chef for a millet grain couscous with mango, fresh vegetables tartare, a carrot and ginger purée and marinated octopus. Couscous is quite international.

It’s easier to prepare a large amount and to reheat it but more difficult to make in smaller batches of less than 4 servings because of the vegetable stew, but it can be stored in sterilized jars for another meal. Usually 8 servings (of the vegetable stew) is the smallest batch possible, but the meats and actual couscous grains are easy to portion smaller. 

Almost always, everything is served separately. One large bowl of vegetable stew with broth, one large bowl of steaming couscous, one platter of grilled meats, one smaller bowl of chickpeas in broth, sometimes a small side plate of raisins and/or pine nuts and a smaller plate of harissa chili paste. I prefer to prepare the plates for the servings myself, if it’s just for 2-4 people and my ideal balance is half vegetable stew with the added chickpeas, one quarter steamed couscous and one quarter grilled meats.

Welcome to the world of COUSCOUS, with a long list of ingredients but so easy to make (and which also exists in sweet dessert versions) … :)

couscous with stewed vegetables & grilled sausages

08.05.2021

8 x 500 grams each

ingredients

ras el hanout spice mixture (6 grams or 3 tsp) :

  • 1,0 gram (½ tsp) coriander seeds
  • 1,0 gram (½ tsp) cumin seed
  • 0,5 gram (½ tsp) ginger powder
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) black peppercorns                                             
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) cinnamon powder
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) fennel seeds
  • 0,25 gram (¼ tsp) allspice berries
  • 0,25 gram (¼ tsp) turmeric powder
  • 0,25 gram (¼ tsp or 3 whole) cloves
  • 0,25 gram (¼ tsp) paprika, sweet or smoked
  • 0,25 gram (1/8 tsp) cayenne pepper
  • 0,25 gram (1/8 tsp or 3 whole) cardamom seeds (from 1 cardamom pod)
  • 0,25 gram (1/8 tsp) anise seeds 
  • 0,125 gram (1/16 tsp) grated nutmeg
  • 0,125 gram (1/16 tsp) orange zest

spiced vegetable stew (2 kg) :

  • 90 ml (6 tbsp) olive oil
  • 250 grams (2 medium) zucchinis
  • 250 grams (2 medium) onions
  • 175 grams (2 medium) carrots
  • 175 grams (2 medium) turnips
  • 175 grams (2 medium) tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
  • 175 grams (1 small) eggplant
  • 125 grams (1 small) green sweet pepper
  • 125 grams (1 small) red sweet pepper
  • 100 grams (2 sticks) celery
  • 100 grams (2 baby) potatoes
  • 15 grams (3 cloves) garlic
  • 4 grams (4 whole fresh) bay leaves (or use dried)
  • 15 grams (1 tbsp) sea salt
  • 5 grams (2 tsp) ras el hanout spice mixture (see above)
  • 1,5-2 liters (6-8 cups) water or broth (see below)
  • 5 grams (1 tbsp) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 5 grams (1 tbsp) fresh coriander leaves
  • 350 grams (2 cups) chickpeas, pre-cooked (to be added only at the end)

broth (for stew) :

  • 1,5-2 liters (6-8 cups) water
  • 600 grams extra vegetables or remains (of whatever you used, peels, ends, etc.)
  • 200 grams chicken bones (and/or lamb and/or beef bones)
  • 15 grams (1 tbsp) coarse sea salt
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) white vinegar
  • 10 grams (2 stalks with leaves) fresh flat-leaf parsley 
  • 10 grams (4 stalks with leaves) fresh coriander
  • 2 grams (4 whole) bay leaves

meats (1 kg after cooking) :

  • 1,5 kg mixed sausages, mutton and/or beef merguez & poultry chipolata (or replace half of the sausages with some chicken thighs and/or small lamb cuts)

couscous (1 kg after steaming) :

  • 500 grams (2 ½ cups) couscous, dry & uncooked
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
  • 12,5 grams (2 ½ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 625 ml (2 ½ cups) warm water (or half broth and half water)

extra garnishes or accompaniments :

  • 50 grams (8 tsp) harissa chili pepper paste
  • 10 grams (8 small stalks) fresh coriander stems with leaves

instructions

  • prepare the spice mixture by grinding everything together and set aside (or adjust to your own taste) or make double and save the rest in a glass jar
  • wash, peel and chop up the vegetables in large walnut sized pieces, crush the garlic and set aside
  • if making a broth with all the vegetable remains or any available bones, bring all the ingredients to a boil and then lower heat to medium-low and let simmer for 1 hour until fragrant enough, then strain and reserve the liquid
  • heat up the olive oil at medium-high heat, add all the vegetables and fry them up, while stirring for 5 minutes, then add all the herbs, 2/3 of the ras el hanout spices mixture, the salt and the broth or water until barely covering all the vegetables, bring to a quick boil then reduce to medium-low heat and cover with a lid and let simmer for 45-60 minutes, then add the cooked chickpeas while still hot, turn off the heat, add the cover again and reserve (add mire salt or spices if necessary)
  • combine the dry couscous grains with the olive oil and salt and stir until well combined, add the warm water or cooled broth, stir and let the couscous grains swell for 30 minutes until doubled in size, use a fork to stir them and separate the grains and set aside
  • grill the sausages in the oven at 210°C for 30 minutes on baking paper in a baking pan, turning them over once or twice and keep warm until needed
  • *note : if adding chicken legs or thighs and/or lamb or beef cuts, then place the meats in a few cups of broth from the vegetable stew (just enough broth to barely cover them), bring to a boil, immediately reduce heat to low, add a cover and simmer for 30 minutes at low heat until tender, then remove, strain, add the broth back into the vegetable stew, brush the pieces of meat with olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 of the ras el hanout spice mixture and some salt and grill on the middle rack in a 210°C preheated oven for 10 minutes on each side and reserve (with the sausages) …
  • as the meats are grilling, use a double boiler to bring 2 cups of water (or some broth) to a boil, place the swollen couscous grains in a clean kitchen towel and loosely wrap, place in the colander, above the boiling water, add a lid and let steam at high heat for 10 minutes until swollen, then sir and separate the grains with a fork again and reserve
  • to present the dish, place everything on the table separately, one large bowl of vegetable stew, one platter of grilled meats and one large bowl of couscous and let everyone serve themselves or assemble the dishes yourself with 125 grams (1 cup) of couscous in the middle, 250 grams (2 cups) of vegetable stew with the chickpeas and some broth around the couscous and 125 grams (1 cup) of sliced meats on top, garnished with some fresh coriander leaves and 1 tsp of harissa chili paste …