Couscous has made heady progress from foreign newcomer to pantry staple in the last 20 years. It has plumped into action as an essential salad at barbecues or as a near-instant mid-week meal. It’s the ideal starchy receptacle for our unstoppable appetite for Mediterranean flavours.
Couscous has almost become a national dish in France. In major cities like Paris and Marseille the best selection of restaurants is mainly French or north African – no other foreign cuisine, apart from maybe Italian, has been so popularised here. Perennially popular, couscous is even offered in company cafeterias where it enjoys more success than paella and pot roast. Before couscous was considered to be a main course all on its own, the semolina grain was traditionally served as a side dish in French households, prepared with milk, honey, hard-boiled eggs, raisins, sugar and butter; otherwise Couscous can be changed some ingredients to be simple and suitable for each country.
Making a couscous dish
The tastes and smells of north-Africa-in-France are only as far away as a typical dish of couscous and vegetable stew, made with the distinctive condiments. Spread out the couscous grains on a plate, rinse with some warm salted water. Work the grain with your hands, to separate the couscous; the grains should be separate. One hour before serving, put the couscous in the steamer. Place the steamer over the stew and cook for 20 minutes. Take the couscous off the fire, and work it with your hands again, to separate the grains. Return the couscous steamer. Cook another 20 minutes. Salt. Put the butte in small bits, serve couscous on plate and with harissa.