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Couscous From Scratch

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I really have a fascination with techniques involved in creating a lot of the food products we use. My current kick is on something that I have really fallen in love with as an adult. I never had couscous as a kid, it just wasn't in the portfolio of my mom or those of my friends. I love it as a replacement for rice, grits, etc. My favorite method is to cook it in stock, and use fresh thyme and rosemary to flavor it.

 

So at first out of curiosity I researched what couscous was. I was a little shocked that it was just pasta. I suppose I wasn't accustomed to pasta outside the realm of noodles or sheets (I've also since discovered orzo). After learning that it was pasta I set out to understand how exactly one creates couscous.

 

So I learned that a correctly mixed pasta dough is rolled around a mesh (strainer works well) and as the small pieces of dough are pressed through they break off to create what in the end seems to be small grains. The possibilities are endless if you consider that you could incorporate any number of flavorings into the dough.

 

Has anyone made couscous from scratch here? The price of couscous in my normal grocery store is enough to drive me to try it, but I was also wondering, like fresh pasta vs. dried, what are the textural differences like? Is it possible to maintain the tiny grains of pasta and thus the texture, if it is not dried first?

post #2 of 11

Couscous is not made with pasta dough... you use hard wheat semolina (both big grains and small grains) and water but you shouldn't form a dough ball as when you make pasta. You should just put water on the big grain semolina, then sprinkle some fine semolina and roll the semolina with your hands to form the little grains. It's a crazy job.

 

So the grains are formed with your hands, not with a strainer. Then the grains are strained to sort out the ones that are fine enough and the ones that are too clumped and need more hand rolling before then can be strained.

 

I've never made it myself, but my grandmother who was born in Algeria used to make it very often. It was an insanely laborious job though.

 

To me the taste really comes from the cooking though: the "proper" way to cook couscous is to steam it three times in a row, with a couscoussier, over the couscous itself (couscous refers both to the grain and to the entire dish consisting of the grain, the broth, the meat and the vegetables). That way the grain gets infused with the flavors from the meat/vegetable broth.

post #3 of 11

Yes, the "authentic" cooking technique is also rather involved and needs specialized equipment as FF notes.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #4 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by eastshores View Post

 The price of couscous in my normal grocery store is enough to drive me to try it....

If you have a Whole Foods Market near you,  look in their bulk foods section.  I get the large couscous (is it called "pearl" couscous?).  I purchase only what I plan to use at the time. 

"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #5 of 11

Amazingrace is correct. Go out and purchase some regular couscous. Having spent time in Algeria traveling and living with an Algerian family, I'm fairly familiar with their 'native' dish. Great with chicken, mutton or merguez sausage and a side of Fanta Orange. And don't forget the Harissa sauce! It's essential to the dish.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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post #6 of 11

Post mistakenly duplicated.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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post #7 of 11

Post mistakenly duplicated.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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post #8 of 11

Hi Eastshores,

 

It sounds as if what you are producing is more like Risoni (sp?) than Couscous.  Traditional couscous is very involved, as French Fries and Phatch say.  There's lots of steaming, tossing and handling before you add the final flavours.

 

But you've enjoyed what you've made -so keep going with it.

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
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post #9 of 11

I always steamed mine using a cloth draped over a waterpan with the lid placed on top.  And yes, the process required some occasional stirring but it's nothing complex or involved.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

Well this thread has certainly taken an odd turn for me.

 

I must admit that to me, almost any grain that is dried and processed into a powder, then combined with water becomes a "dough" and I unfortunately called it pasta dough. I was working off of a video I had seen and was flat wrong, it's not typical pasta dough (the video didn't say that!). I was trying to be ambiguous but I had no idea there were separate stages of mixing, and different flours before moving it through a sieve. I am glad that the thread brought that forward.

 

So the point is clear, the mixing stage of the couscous is not that simple.

 

As for the traditional method of cooking it, why may I ask is there "lots of steaming, tossing and handling before you add the final flavours"? Why is that necessary? Are those steps that are taken in preparing dried couscous?

post #11 of 11

I'm not sure what you mean by "adding the final flavors"?

 

The traditional method of steaming the couscous over the whole dish achieves two goals:

 

1) Texture:

By delicately steaming the couscous, and in between each phase delicately separating the grains with your hands, you're ensuring a light, fluffy couscous where the grains are not damaged or bruised and are nicely separated.

 

2) Flavor:

By steaming the grain over the entire dish (at least the vegetables and their broth - meats are sometimes cooked separately), you slowly infuse the couscous with the flavor of the steaming broth.

 

With the quick method, you infuse the pre-cooked couscous by pouring boiling liquid over it and letting the grain absorb the liquid. The liquid can be plain water, or water with salt and butter, or olive oil etc...or any kind of broth you wish to use. I suppose that may be what you meant by "adding the final flavor"? You then separate the grain - usually the package suggests using a fork. The result is fine, just not as delicate.

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