23 June 2009

Couscous today

Today is the day we make couscous. The weather is supposed to be warm and sunny, so we'll eat outdoors around our new table. There will be seven of us. Susan and Simon are coming from Preuilly-sur-Claise. J-L and S., who are neighbors, are coming over too. CHM is here, finishing up his visit.

The couscous is the classic one, a Couscous Royal. It includes lamb, chicken, merguez sausages, carrots, tomatoes, turnips, celeriac, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, and chickpeas. Couscous is a big pot of stewed vegetables in a spicy bouillon, served over the tiny pasta bits that are the couscous itself.

One of our cactus plants sports a new flower.

CHM and I drove down to Loches yesterday afternoon just to look around. We stopped in a big supermarket there and picked up the rest of the vegetables and meats we needed for the couscous. We already had chickpeas and a leg of lamb, plus all the spices and a box of couscous.

Here's what the grapes in the vineyard are looking like these days.

We started the cooking last night. The first thing to do was to cut the lamb up into chunks and browned them in oil with onions, garlic, and spices. When the meat was well browned, we poured in water and some vegetable broth and put in the turnips, carrots, tomatoes and celery root, all cut up into medium-size pieces.

The last of the wild orchids of springtime

Now today we have to brown the chicken and then cook it in the bouillon. And put in pieces of eggplant and zucchini, along with the green beans. It won't take long for everything to finish cooking. While it does so, we'll steam the couscous so it is light and fluffy. Then we'll serve and eat it all with the one indispensable accompaniment, which is harissa, a spicy paste of vegetables and hot red peppers that you dilute into some of the broth and pour on at the table.

Callie with her new tennis ball, enjoying summer

Here's a good recipe for Couscous Royal. I've translated and adapted it:
Couscous Royal

2¼ lbs. lamb shoulder or leg, de-boned
1 chicken (or 3 lbs. of chicken parts)
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
12 merguez sausages (spicy lamb and beef sausages)

4 zucchini
4 carrots
2 turnips
1 stalk celery or 1 small celeriac
2 eggplants

3 very ripe tomatoes
2 cups cooked chickpeas
3 teaspoons ras-el-hanout (a Moroccan spice blend)
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
3 Tbsp. butter
½ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2¼ lbs. couscous (medium grain)

Cut up the chicken and cut the lamb into big cubes. Brown the meat in oil and butter in a big pot for 5 to 10 minutes with the onion and garlic, chopped.

Add the spices (ras-el-hanout is a blend of cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cayenne pepper, etc.) and the salt and pepper. Put in the tomato paste and fresh tomatoes, cut into chunks, and then add water just to cover the lamb and chicken pieces. Simmer for 15 minutes on low heat.

Peel and cut up the carrots and turnips. Cut up the eggplant and zucchini.

Add the vegetables to the pot, along with a celery stalk, parsley, and other herbs if you want. Make sure the liquid covers all the ingredients. Bring the stew back to the boil and then let it simmer 45 minutes to an hour. Five minutes before serving, add in the cooked chickpeas.

Prepare the couscous grain according to package directions and add butter cut into small pieces to the hot couscous, stirring with a fork to fluff up the grain.

Cook the merguez sausages in a frying pan.

The couscous, the meats, the vegetables, and the broth should be served in four separate bowls. In addition, put a cup or two of the broth in a dish and stir in some of the harissa paste. Serve some of the grain, some vegetables, and some meat on each plate. Moisten with sauce, and then let each person add a few spoonfuls of broth flavored with harissa, to taste.
You can get the recipe in French here. Look for some pictures tomorrow.


  1. Can't wait to hear about the end result.. i.e. food & friends!

  2. Your recipe sounds great, I will try it. Thanks.


  3. Your couscous sounds delicious. Since I won't be there to taste the results, I'm looking forward to all the photos tomorrow.

    Bon appetit tous et toutes,

  4. I hope you'll consider including photos of the guests, hosts, and new table, along with the food! Hope you all enjoyed it!

  5. I loooove couscous. I haven't tried this recipe but will.
    Happy birthday Seine Judeet (Judy)

  6. Happy Birthday, Judy! Sorry to say I didn't take any pictures at our couscous party this afternoon. But Walt took movies.

  7. Bon anniversaire, Judy, et de nombreux retours de ce jour.

  8. Oh my! How sweet of you all to wish me happy birthday! What a fun surprise when I checked back here this morning to see what other Couscous comments there were. Merci!


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