Before I started cooking and preparing couscous by myself, whenever I heard about it, I was imagining a meal requiring several hours of preparation, a lot of organization and not being afraid to burn oneself when grasping the warm semolina…
After having tried it myself, I can say that … I was right. Of course, you will always find some of those perfect cooks who can tell you that there is nothing simpler and that, after all, it is just a family meal cooked every Friday in Moroccan houses (so it cannot be that complex). Well, I prefer not to lie about it. The traditional Moroccan couscous with 7 vegetables, which has become a national dish in the country – and has unfortunately erased little by little the other regional and seasonal versions –, that couscous is not easy to make. Because all the vegetables need not the same cooking time – and so even if they are supposed to stew together –, because meat is difficult to handle, because semolina requires some attention. All this makes it a meal complex and long to prepare. And indeed you may have to prepare it every Friday – and for several years – to become an expert and go to it with genuine enthusiasm!
But there are other ways. First, serving couscous with 7 vegetables is something quite recent (before, all theses vegetables were not available at the same time) and unnecessary. A couscous can be excellent with three or four vegetables, as long as it is cooked with good products, patience and a whole bunch of love. After all, it is a family thing. Then, there is the meat question. Simply forget about it, it becomes much more easy and faster to prepare! So here is my first recipe of vegetarian couscous, a couscous with the colors of autumn, with 3 seasonal vegetables. For it, I have chosen barley semolina, because of I like the smell and it’s lighter. But you can also use regular wheat semolina. A good tip to enhance the flavor in couscous is to use smen (see the recipe here) for cooking the vegetables and preparing the semolina. If you don’t have some, you can use butter or olive oil.
Autumn Barley Couscous
1 pound turnips
1 pound zucchinis
1.5 pound pumpkin
1 pound barley semolina
1 bunch of parsley / coriander
3 tbsp smen (or butter or olive oil)
1 tsp black pepper
Some filaments of saffron
Peel and slice the onions into strips (if big onions, cut them in half lengthways). Peel and cut the zucchinis and the turnips in quarter, and if need be in the lengthways to obtain pieces of approx. 2 inches length. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks. The best is to keep the skin and not to cut in too small dices to avoid that it completely melts during the cooking. In a couscous maker, or in a cooking pot, brown the vegetables (except zucchinis) with smen and herbs. Add salt, pepper and saffron. When vegetables are softened and aromas are released, add water (50 oz.) little by little. Leave to simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, add the zucchinis, and cook again for 10 minutes. Taste the vegetable broth. Add salt if needed.
Pour the semolina in a large plate. Add little by little 1 cup of water and mix with hands until you feel the grain is humid.
In the upper part of a couscous maker or in a steamer over the pot (or in a pressure steamer), put the couscous (if need be, you can use a fine cloth under the semolina if the holes are too large). A tip to avoid the steam to escape is to place a cloth around the edge of the couscous maker / pot, between the upper and lower part. When you see that the steam is going up and is going through the semolina, leave to steam for 10 minutes (the cooking time depends on the type of semolina used) covered.
Pour the hot semolina in a large plate, separate the grains with hands (or with a wood fork), adding some smen. Put aside and cover. Ten minutes before serving, heat up again the semolina in the upper part of the couscous maker or in the steamer over the pot. Arrange the couscous into a dome shape and serve the vegetables on top. Drizzle with some of the vegetable broth, and serve the rest in small bowls.
Hi there! I'm Majda.
Foodie, yogini, life lover!
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