06 June 2014

Couscous day

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

Group 1
chick peas

Group 2
yellow squash
string beans

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.


  1. I officially declare this post as the culinary highlight of the month.
    That looks just amazing.

  2. Recipe looks tasty....
    but, "Wot, no dates?"

    "lamb & beef sausages called merguez"....
    Ken, do you get yours from a local butcher?
    All the ones I've found around here seem to be mainly pork....
    with a 4% addition of beef and lamb....
    which is, I presume the legal minimum to still be able to call them merguez...
    and the butchers don't give the quantities of the ingredients.
    However, the best we've ever had, we found very recently....
    and they come from the Abilly "rabbit" man...
    that Susan mentions/'ravesabout' from time to time...
    they are "rabbit&mutton" and nothing else...
    the texture is wonderful...
    and his balance of spices are to our taste, too!

    So I think that the traditional ones will probably go bye-bye in this household.
    The "duck merguez" from our local "everything canard" suppliers are good, too...
    but too finely minced... naught to chew on!!

  3. Thanks HP. The month is young :>)

    Tim, I get my merguez sausages from SuperU in Saint-Aignan. They don't have any pork in them. What some people don't realize is that the butcher counters in supermarkets like Intermarché and SuperU are real butchers who operate concessions. They open shops in supermarkets, which is where the customers are. The sausages at the Saint-Aignan supermarket can't be found at other SuperU markets, like the ones in Selles-sur-Cher or Contres. Same with Intermarché. The main thing is that in France merguez can be made with pork, but they must by law be clearly labeled as containing pork. There's no pork in the ones we are eating.

  4. What Peter said! Your reply to him made me smile, Ken. You are fortunate to have a good butcher there in Saint-Aignan.

  5. I see you didn't forget the bottle of Sidi Brahim !! J'ai faim tout à coup !

  6. There is nothing like a great couscous and this one looks particularly delicious!

  7. Ken

    I was looking for the word : Ras al Hanouf :-)
    I guess you have put the individual spice in lieu

  8. Rien ne vaut un bon couscous au "Vent de Sologne".

  9. It's very original dish and delicious one


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