Did you know you can cook semolina flour and make a side dish from it?
In Israel, we call it couscous. This dish actually came from Morocco, where they eat it with a vegetable and chicken stew.
My mother is Moroccan, and growing up we used to eat couscous at least once a week. It is one of those dishes that takes you back to your mama’s kitchen, comforts you, fills your belly, and make bad days go away.
Cooking Semolina flour is not too complicated, but, like every good old fashion skill, it takes some time and work. They weren’t as lazy as we are back in the day. Nothing about food was instant, and no one would have sold you pre-cooked something in a box and called it couscous.
So you can buy one of those couscous in a box, add boiling water and top it with a nice stew or meatballs and sauce. That’s fine, we don’t always have time to stand in the kitchen for a couple of hours. But it will never, ever, be as fluffy and soft, and tasty as the real deal.
So if you feel like trying something new, let me show you how I cook semolina flour.
But before I start, there is something I have to get off my chest…
THIS is not Israeli couscous.
Oh God, it feels so good to say it on the world wide web.
What it is is pearled pasta. Just pasta, in a shape of little balls. In Israel we call it ptitim, and they should have translated it to something like Pearled Israeli Pasta because if you go visit Israel and call this couscous, someone will beat you with a stick. We don’t want that.
It’s like if you moved to a different country and found out they call a hamburger a meatloaf. Ain’t no meatloaf between these buns! (Name the movie!)
So here is how to make real couscous…
I start with one bag of Bob’s Red Mill semolina flour. Doesn’t have to be Bob’s, but this bag has 24 oz in it (or 680g) and I use the whole bag. This makes a lot of couscous, but since it is a bit of work to make it, I prefer to make a lot and freeze some of it for later.
Next, we are going to steam the couscous a couple of times, and to do that we use a special steaming pot. You can find one here.
Mix well and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Just before the couscous is ready, I place this large, flat, mesh strainer over a large bowl. It is made especially for making traditional couscous, and I brought it from Israel with me a couple of years ago. You might be able to find one in a Chinese market, or you might be able to use a regular mesh strainer.
Work it with a fork as long as it’s hot. Once it cools down, I stick my hand in it, and basically force the couscous trough the strainer down to the bowl. This is hard work, and you don’t have to do this, but it makes the couscous extra fluffy and soft.
We usually make a large pot of basic vegetable/chicken soup and scoop only the vegetables and chicken on top of the couscous. It is also very good as a base for meatballs in tomato sauce or some kind of fish in lemon sauce.
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