Monday, 18 January 2010

Couscous à la maison

I am hungry. Feed me! Anything! It was lunch time and my wife's blood sugar levels were reaching alarmingly low levels. And she didn't have anything for breakfast. My food brain started to go through the inventories of our fridge and store cupboard and computing the options...pasta, instant soups, sandwich, bananas... COUSCOUS. That's it. She likes couscous... especially when you pimp it with other ingredients. From countless visits to Middle Eastern and North African restaurants I knew that couscous went really well with dried fruits and nutty flavors. I had a handful of raisins and dried apricot left. And some flaky almonds (although I had hoped to find some pine nuts...oh well, next time).
But what gives this recipe a truly Moroccan touch  is the use of the ras el hanout spice mixture. The term literally means head of the shop in Arabic. It apparently refers to being the signature spice mixture that a souk seller would offer his customers.

Ingredients (serves 2 as lunch main or 4 as a small side)
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth (you can use instant cubes)
  • 0.5 tsp ras el hanout spice mixture (I used Bart's ready made mix, but you could try and make your own - I know I will try at some point)
  • 6 dried apricots, chopped
  • 3 heaped tbsp raisins
  • 1 small to medium-sized tomato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Handful of flaked almonds, toasted,  to serve
  • Handful of coriander leaves, to serve

  1. Mix the dry couscous with the spices, apricot, raisins and chopped tomatoes
  2. In a medium saucepan heat the broth until it starts boiling
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the couscous mixture
  4. Cover and leave the couscous to soak up all the juices, about 2-3 minutes
  5. Return the pan to a low heat and add the knob of butter
  6. Using a fork, stir in the butter and break up any lumps of couscous remaining (1-2 minutes)
  7. Plate the couscous and top with toasted flaked almonds and coriander leaves

Tips for serving and adapting

You could add anything from chickpeas to dates and pine nuts to the couscous. This recipe is an ideal side dish to lamb, chicken, vegetable tagine and even white fish. While making it, I suddenly developed a strong craving for harissa-crusted, roasted lamb chops. Certain sides just seem to call for that one corresponding main dish.


  1. I had already eaten the pine nuts. About twenty minutes earlier.

  2. I like pimped out couscous too. Damn this looks awesome