Wednesday, January 31, 2007


We have couscous for supper almost every week. Cold, often: I make it before going to my piano lesson, so we can eat it as soon as I get back.

After various experiments, I always use the following method for preparing the couscous (about 75 g for each of us), despite what packet instructions may say. (Most couscous on sale here is pre-cooked, and does not need the steaming that recipes may specify). I pour boiling water over it until it is soaked, stopping before the water level rises above the level of the grains. I cover the dish and put it into a hot oven -- it does not matter how hot -- for five minutes. The grains emerge in a solid clump, but separate when you stir in other ingredients, particularly oily ones.

I think that a couple of tbsps of pine nuts, which I toast in a dry saucepan, adds a lot of interest to the bland grains. I like parsley in there too. Last night, I roasted cubes of butternet squash, tossed with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper; I added mushrooms and garlic to the tin with 15 minutes (of about 45) to go. I also stirred in some cold chicken. I divided the mixture in half, and stirred a tsp of harissa into my portion.

The mushrooms were a mistake: I should remember that when you cook them in oil or butter and let them get cold they acquire an unappealing -- greasy and rubbery -- texture.


Jo said...

I reckon you need to go a couple of cms above the level of the cous cous. It always absorbs the excess liquid without going too soggy - but too little liquid and you're left with rather hard grains. And it doesn't seem to make much difference whether you use boiling, warm or even cold water?

Nicholas Clee said...

A couple of cms extra would certainly be too much for the couscous brand (the one illustrated) I use. It would remain damp and clumpy, and be too soft. But I use boiling water; otherwise, I find, the grains remain gritty.

Anonymous said...

I use that brand too and put in boiling water to a bit less than 1cm above. If I'm making a sauce (I like my cous cous with lots of sauce, I let the grains absorb the water and then tip them into a sieve over the sauce pan and cover the whole lot with a plate - - that way they get fluffy and absorb some of the flavours (and keep warm until I'm ready).