This dish, my husband's favourite, is a traditional staplefood in North Africa.
Couscous does not have much of a flavor itself.Thus couscous dishes are made with flavored stocks, herbs, and spices, with vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and/or meat added or used as a topping. An iftar in an Arabic place definitely has couscous as a maincourse and is prepared with many different variations.
For the Couscous
Instant couscous -2 cups (plan on 1/2 to 3/4 cup couscous per person)
Water - twice the volume of couscous
Butter - 2 tbsp
For the stock
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 2 teaspoons
Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder- 2 teaspoons
Chopped onions - 2 medium sized
Chicken or meat - 500 gms (marinated in turmeric, ginger paste and salt)
Zucchini -2 (each cut into two)
Mini Cucumber -2 (each cut into two)
Paprika - 4 or 5
Dates 4 (optional)
Orange juice - 2 cups
Chick peas - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Pepper powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Preparation of the stock
1. In a large pan, heat the oil.
2. Fry and cook the marinated chicken/meat.
3. Take out the chicken.
4. In the same oil, add cumin seeds, chopped onions, turmeric powder and ginger paste. Cook until the onions become soft.
5. Now add, all the vegetables. i.e., carrot, potatoes, zucchini, chick peas,but add zucchini, cucumber a little later so as to avoid overcooking. Add orange juice, dates and lots of water. This gives a sweet sour taste to the stock. Add salt and pepper powder.
cover and cook until all the vegetables are soft.
6. Now add the fried chicken/meat pieces.
7. In the end, add the paprika and cook for some more time. Care should be taken as to not overcook it.
In a separate pan, fry the dried fruits and nuts in some oil.
Preparation of the couscous (Follow the instructions in the pack) or
1. Boil the water. Add salt and a tbsp of olive oil.
2. Now add couscous grains to the salted warm water. Cover and let it rest for 2 min.
3. Add butter and cook on a slow flame for 2 min. Separate the grains by using a fork.
Presentation and display
1. This is the most significant aspect of this recipe! Take a large serving plate. Spread the couscous on it. Now take out each vegetable and chicken piece from the cooked stock and place it on the couscous thereby forming a pattern. Sprinkle the dried fruits and nuts on the top.
2. You would be left with only the liquid soup after removing the vegetables. Just before serving add the soup in excess and keep adding it as and when eating, so that its warm.
Tip : The major fun and enjoyment lies when the whole family eats from this single large plate !
I am glad to send this recipe to an Iftar event hosted by Umm Mymoonah of the Taste of Pearl city and to Visual Treat by Creative Sanyukta.