Thursday, July 2, 2015

Algerian Beef Couscous

Couscous is one of the staple foods of the Maghreb countries, just like rice for the Asian. I must confessed that couscous is still my top favourite Algerian dish! The soft, light and fluffy texture of couscous served with good sauce makes the whole dish so scrumptious. The first time I tried chicken couscous was in Taghit, one of the Sahara desert in Algeria. The taste was so authentic and I still remember it until today. However, I was lucky enough too to have the chance to try out delicious home cooked couscous over my three years stay in Algiers. I still remember the taste of the couscous prepared by my neighbour and also my friend's mother. Each of their recipes has different unique flavors of their own, yet they are equally so delicious.

White sauce beef couscous prepared by my Algerian friend's mother

I was told that the Algerian family would normally cook couscous every Friday. It has been their tradition. The traditional restaurants in Algiers do serve couscous too, but I still prefer the home cooked ones. I had the chance to taste couscous both served with white sauce and red sauce, and also couscous with raisins served with milk during Ramadhan.

Yummy!! Meals for two at a traditional Algerian restaurant! Chicken couscous along with bourek, chorba, hmiss and matlou, and plenty of free baguette

I first introduced couscous to my husband during our trip to Southern France. Last night, I decided to prepare beef couscous for dinner after I found zucchini available in one of the markets here. Normally, it is very hard to find zucchinis here, only local cucumbers and Japanese cucumbers are widely sold.

500g beef, cut into big equal size around 2" or 3"
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chickpeas*
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 carrot, cut into 2" length
1 zucchini, cut into 2" length
Salt and black pepper
Olive oil
1 liter beef broth
Some chopped parsley for garnishing (optional)
1 cup instant couscous

For the meat sauce:
* Soaked the chickpeas overnight, then wash and drain
1. Season beef on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a skillet, slightly brown the beef on each side, then remove them to a plate.
2. In a deep sauce pan, add olive oil and saute garlic and onions until translucent.
3. Then, add the beef, spices and tomato paste into the pan and mix.
4. Add the beef broth to cover, put in the chickpeas and bring the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes.
5. Then, add the carrots and simmer for another 30 minutes.
6. Add the zucchini and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
7. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if preferred.

For couscous:
1. Cook the couscous as per package instruction.
2. Once cooked, fluff the couscous with a fork.
3. Serve hot, with the sauce preparared.

Cooked couscous, ready to be served

I used pre-cooked couscous since is available in the supermarkets here. I learnt that the Algerians cook their couscous by steaming it for two or three times using a couscoussiere, but the pre-cooked couscous I bought from the supermarkets instructed to cook the couscous in boiling water. Two very different methods, and I would say, the texture and taste of the couscous I ate in Algeria is very different the packaged ones. Anyhow, we both enjoyed the meal so much and serving this delicious couscous really added warmth to the dinner.

Meal of the evening ~ beef couscous