Yesterday was couscous day at La Renaudière (our hamlet). At least it was at Les Bouleaux (our house). Today will be couscous day II because there's a lot of it and the leftovers are at least as good as what you eat on the first day.
We put raisins in the steamed couscous "grain" and served a gravy boat of the cooking liquid on the side.
Couscous is a form of tiny pasta that is a specialty of North Africa and countries including Lebanon. In English, people call it a "grain" but it's not a grain like rice or bulgur. It's a kind of pasta. In French, people call it « la semoule », but it's not exactly that either. No matter.
Walt used a dry spice rub including cumin, black pepper, turmeric, coriander seed, and fenugreek to flavor the grilled lamb.
And then the name couscous gets expanded to mean the whole meal that is based on the couscous you buy in a bag or box. Usually, it's a big bowl of stew containing lots of vegetables — onions, carrots, turnips, tomatoes, green beans, courgettes, chick peas, bell peppers, artichoke hearts, and so on — and two or three meats — lamb, chicken, beef, meatballs, etc. Spices including cumin, piment fort, and allspice go into the broth.
Merguez sausages and cubed lamb cooked on the barbecue grill
Our couscous yesterday was based on lamb — a New Zealand gigot d'agneau or leg of lamb — and a rabbit (instead of chicken). I deboned the lamb and used the shank end as stew meat. With the leaner, more tender large end of the leg we made brochettes — cubes of meat on skewers that Walt cooked on the barbecue. We also grilled the requisite North African lamb & beef sausages called merguez. It's nice to have a combination of boiled and grilled meats.
We put green beans, rabbit, artichoke hearts, green and red bell peppers, leeks, zucchini, and even a rutabaga in the stew.
An American friend of mine whom I've known for 35 years spent a few years in Paris back in the 1970s, when I lived there too. She had an Algerian friend, and one summer she spent a couple of months with the friend's family in Algeria. She brought back this couscous "recipe" — it's more of an idea or method — for making a couscous. She developed it by observing her friend's mother working in the kitchen.
Authentic Algerian Couscous
cayenne or harissa
Brown meat and some sliced onions in butter and/or oil. Add spices.
Add everything else and enough broth cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for one hour...
... or ...
Add Group 1 to broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Then add Group 2 and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes longer so that total cooking time is one hour.
Finally, while the broth is simmering, prepare the couscous itself. Moisten the couscous with water and work it to avoid lumps and clumps. Steam it uncovered for 30 minutes and work it again to break down lumps. Repeat the operation.
For the sauce, mix to taste some broth, ginger, and cayenne or harissa.