Well, I've got a page for rice and a page for pasta so it would seem churlish not to have a page for couscous.
Couscous is basically North African for pasta, consisting of wheat semolina laboriously rolled into tiny balls of dough.
Apparently couscous comes in two distinct forms: the instant, and the regular kind. I'll have to take those North Africans word for it, since I've never come across the regular kind, which apparently requires boiling or, preferably, steaming to cook.
The instant stuff really is instant though - just add water!

Instant Couscous
staple side veg vegan
How to make instant couscous
Instant couscous is the only kind I've actually come across (without searching) in Britain, and is already cooked, just requiring rehydrating.
So all you do is pour over enough hot water or stock to just cover the surface of the couscous and leave it for 10 minutes.
Now you can fluff it up with a fork, season it, oil it or add your toppings and off you go.
Yep, that's it. Nothing more to see here. Move along.

  • couscous

Steamed Couscous
staple side veg vegan
Steaming for non-instant couscous
If you do come across regular couscous, not the instant kind, then you can try the steaming method. I don't think you can use instant couscous for this as it will become water-logged and mushy.
I can't comment on this method (blatantly stolen from Christine Benlafquih) since I haven't tried it myself, but it looks quite sensible. Maybe I'll give it a go if I take on an authentic Moroccan meal.

Add Oil to the Dry Couscous
Empty 1 kg of dry (not instant) couscous into a large shallow bowl.
Add about 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Toss, rub and stir the couscous with your hands to distribute the oil. The oil helps prevent clumping, allowing each grain of couscous to remain separate as it steams.

Add Water
Now add one cup of water to the couscous, and toss the couscous, rubbing it between your hands until the water is evenly distributed. You can see the couscous is already plumping up, but it needs to steam in order to become tender.

First Steaming
Lightly oil the interior of a steamer or Couscoussier (if you have the real deal). Transfer the couscous to the steamer, taking care not to compress or pack the couscous. Place the steamer on top of the base of the couscoussier. Presumably you'll be stewing some meat and vegetables in the bottom, but you could also steam the couscous over salted water.
If any steam escapes from the joint where the steamer and base meet, you'll want to seal the joint - use either a long roll of damp cloth, or wrap some cling film around the rim of the pot before placing the basket on top.
Once you see steam rise from the couscous, allow the couscous to steam for a full 15 minutes.

Second Steaming
Once the couscous has completed its first steaming, empty it from the steamer into your large bowl. Use a spoon to break it apart, and allow it to cool a few minutes.
Next, add two cups of water and a tablespoon of salt. Toss the couscous and rub it between your palms to break up any balls or clumps.
Put the couscous back into the steamer - again, don't pack the couscous - and steam a second time for another 15 minutes, timing from when you see the steam rise from the top of the couscous. Remember to seal the joint if you notice steam escaping from the sides.

Third Steaming
Once the couscous has completed its second steaming, empty it into your large bowl again. Break it apart, and allow to cool slightly.
Separately add 2 1/2 to 3 cups of water, tossing and mixing the couscous with your hands after each addition. The couscous is now quite light and fluffy, and should lean toward al dente when you try it. It will continue to tenderize during the last steaming and from adding broth during serving time.
Transfer the couscous to the steamer - remember not to compress the couscous, just pile it in lightly - and steam for the final time for another 10 to 15 minutes, timing from when you see the steam. Again, seal the joint of the couscoussier if necessary.
Due to the volume of couscous, it will take a bit longer to see the steam emerge. Because of this, some Moroccan cooks don't add all the couscous for the final steaming in a single quantity. They might place one-third or one-half of the couscous in the steamer, and add more when they see the steam rising.

Turn out the couscous, if you like you can toss in a little butter or oil, ladle over some stock and then arrange your accompaniment on top.
  • couscous