Couscous is a very versatile semolina product, made by coarsely grinding the semolina wheat and then coating it with fine wheat powder. This cereal is the staple food of North africa, and can be used in many ways, as a main dish served with meat or vegetable sauce or as a dessert. It goes back to the Berber people, and has been mentioned in a 13th century cookbook as a recipe known all over the world. I first came across this dish at a Moroccon friend's place. She served it with a full-flavored meat sauce on a beautiful large platter, and six of us gathered around the platter and ate from the same platter with our hands moving over the food in harmony.Even more than the fluffiness of the grain or the soft buttery vegetables in the sauce, it was that act of eating out of the same dish that fascinated me. Eating from a single plate is very common in the African and middle-eastern cultures irrespective of relegion even to this day, with the entire family gathering around the large platter for the main meals everyday. I was aware of this custom in islamic culture, and can recollect seeing old photos of wedding feasts, called supras, from back home in India where biriyani is served in large platters and groups of people sit around each dish and eat from it. In my country we have lost this tradition, and coming from a place where food touched by someone's hand is considered as unfit to be eaten, I did feel hesitant to dig into the food with all the hands moving around it. Midway through the meal, I noticed how all the butternut squash pieces in the sauce had silently walked over to my side of the dish after I mentioned that I loved its buttery taste, and that undid all my self-conciousness.
couscous served in a pretty Moroccon platter
Meat or chicken and vegetables are stewed in a large pot over which the couscous is placed to steam absorbing the flavour from the sauce. To get the grains fluffy , it is taken out of the steamer twice, cooled down, rubbed with oil and water and then placed back on the steamer. Precooked couscous which requires considerably less time is available in most of the middle eastern and meditteranean markets in the US. I used my keralawala steamer meant for adas and idiyappams, using the base which is meant to boil water in as the sauce pot.
Shall we try?
parsley, chopped : 1 cup