Feel like a perfect couscous? There are 6 things to know – Italian Cuisine


What we know as cous cous it is, in fact, a grain obtained from the processing of durum wheat flour and steam cooked, usually served with meat, vegetables, legumes, sometimes fish or dried fruit. Widespread in the Maghreb and throughout the Mediterranean basin, it is very popular in West Africa and the Near East – in Israel as in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. It is loved in France and Belgium, it is found in Spain and is also part of the Italian gastronomic tradition: in particular of Sicily, in the Trapani area, and Sardinia, in Carloforte.

177094In Italy it is found in some pages of gastronomic literature since the sixteenth century and the cooking technique and the way of serving seem to have remained unchanged. And not by chance in the Trapani area, a San Vito Lo Capo, will be held very soon on Cous Cous Fest, a tribute to the tradition of Trapani, who wants it strictly with fish. Whether it is a legacy of Arab domination or an original reworking, it does not matter: couscous is now also part of Italian cuisine. In this adorable location full of Arab-Norman architectural references, the twenty-second edition of a festival celebrating food that will take place from September 20th to 29th will be held. has many features in common with the ancestor of Italian pasta, not least that of being an adequate response to the need for preservation of cereals even after a long period of storage (need for all the populations that had the need to face long journeys at sea). During the event there will also be a competition that will bring together chefs from all over Italy who try their hand at preparing recipes based on couscous. The scouting chef is promoted by Bia CousCous, the leading company in Europe for the production and marketing of couscous, main sponsor of the Cous Cous Fest.

The traditional procedure wants the semolina to come worked by rubbing with a little water until you get tiny balls; the grain obtained is then sieved to select the desired size. There are three types of couscous, depending on the diameter of the balls: the medium, the most common, lends itself to all recipes; the finest is used for desserts; the largest is not widespread. The fresh couscous is then steamed, dried and packaged.

In medio stat virtus

The medium couscous it is definitely the most versatile: it goes well with meat, fish, vegetables; it is excellent as a base for cold or warm salads, for light meatballs, for flans, even savory muffins.

The traditional pairing is with stewed meat – mutton or chicken according to the North African tradition – or with fish and shellfish according to the Sicilian and Spanish; there is also a spicy sauce such as harissa (a sauce made with red pepper, chilli, garlic, cumin and mint) and lots of vegetables and legumes, especially chickpeas.

With dried fruit, spices, sugar and honey it is a base of unusual and delicious desserts.

A special pot?

Let's talk about the couscoussiera – called taseksut in Berber – the special pot used for steaming non-precooked couscous: it is equipped with a hole basket and a lid (found in the most supplied housewares). Put the couscous in the couscous sauce and steam it in 2-3 times. Alternatively, you can use a large high-sided saucepan and a metal colander to enter the saucepan: in this case, you will need to seal the two pans well before couscous is cooked with a damp cotton cloth.

Traditionally the couscous should be steamed two or three times, but do not worry, it is fine precooked couscous, faster and easier to prepare – it has already been cooked for the first time and then dried.

Just put it in a baking dish, bring to a boil some liquid (broth, flavored water, etc.), pour it over, cover everything with a cloth and let the grains swell for a few minutes. To avoid overcooked or too raw couscous, the liquid / couscous percentages are 1 to 1.

But watch out for these wrong moves!

1_ No tap water! Do not use running water to prepare it, but vegetable broth light.
If you don't have it handy, you can create aflavored water adding toasted natural boiling water, toasted star anise, crushed garlic, a piece of fresh peeled ginger and / or 1/2 onion; set of salt.
If you use the pot, use this water to steam couscous, or leave it in infusion 10 minutes and strain it before pouring it over the precooked couscous.

2_Mai, never boil it in water as you do with pasta and cereals! Season the cooked couscous in the pan with a little oil and then pour the boiling liquid over it. Respect the proportion 1 to 1: the liquid must cover the couscous flush, do not submerge it.

3_Never mix the couscous in the absorption phase. Allow the liquid to absorb and cover the couscous container with a cloth. Once well swollen, first shell it with a fork; once warm, work it with your hands to shell it: i grains I must all be well separated. You can spread it on a dry towel to wipe it well with your fingers.

4_ Do not overdo it with oil. Once well shelled, add a drizzle of oil to your still – just a thread, it must not be too greasy – and then season the couscous according to your recipe or fantasy.

5_Non never salt the grains. In the case of a savory dish, season with salt the liquid you use or the seasoning, meat and / or vegetables or legumes that you will mix with couscous.

6_Never serve it cold! If it is not hot or lukewarm, the couscous should be maximum at room temperature. The cold facilitates the cohesion of the grains and the formation of lumps.

Choose the right recipe for you, avoid these "crimes" against couscous and enjoy a tasty and delicious single dish.

Francesca Tagliabue
June 2017
updated by Emanuela Di Pasqua
July 2019

Image Credits:
Cous Cous Fest Press Office

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