What is couscous

00:00 Mon 09th Jul 2001 |

A.� Couscous is a fine, rolled, semolina-type grain made from ground wheat. It's a traditional North African food served with flatbreads or salad.

Q.� How do you make it

A.� For traditional Moroccan cooks, making it is a two-hour labour of love: the grains are washed, moistened with a dash of water and ladled with smen (a soured and clarified butter), flavoured with bay, thyme and salt; then briefly steamed in a couscoussier oved a spiced meat broth, aerated using fingers, then moistened and steamed again. This process is repeated every 20 minutes or so until the grain are really plump. In the UK, however, people mostly use the packet variety, available in every major supermarket.

To make the packet variety, briefly soak the couscous depending on the type of dish you're serving. Use a chicken stock cube instead of water for added flavour.

Tip about 100g of grains per person into a heatproof bowl and pour just enough of the boiled water so it just reaches the top of the grains. Leave for a minute or so then fork through. Add some melted butter or sea salt for flavour. Leave for a further five minutes then fluff with a fork.

Q.� Can you keep couscous

A.� It keeps quite well in the fridge for two days. It can be reheated in the microwave.

Q.� How do I make tabbouleh

A.� Mix a bunch of chopped mint and parsley with some cooked couscous. Mix in a small chopped cucumber and some�chopped tomato, then season well with salt, black pepper, some crushed garlic, a good splash of extra virgin olive oil and plenty of lemon juice. Add some grated lemon peel for extra zest. Serve at room temeperature.

Q.� What else can I serve it with

A.� Anything stewed, braised or casseroled with lots of thin juices that need soaking up. It's best teamed with tagines, a delicious Moroccan stew, but also works well with roast meats and cold salads. It's a good alternative to potato and pasta.

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By Katharine MacColl

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