Prep 20 mins
Cook 30 mins
In order to make authentic couscous, you have to use the right cooking pot, a "couscousiere". The "stew" portion is cooked in the large pot base and the couscous is cooked in the steam of the stew sitting atop on a fitted steamer.
- 2 cups couscous (I like Tria or Ile de France brand)
- 4 medium potatoes, cubed
- 2 cups baby carrots
- 1 large turnip
- 2 -3 green peppers, cored and quartered
- 1 (10 ounce) can tomato paste
- 1⁄2 cup olive oil, to cover pot bottom
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 whole boneless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix (substitute 1 tbsp each ground caraway and ground coriander if unavailable)
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 pinch saffron, ground
- 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon harissa, if desired (or more)
- 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained (optional)
- 1⁄4 cup salted butter
- salt and pepper
- Pour couscous in large bowl and cover with water. Water will be absorbed. Set aside.
- In the pot part of the couscousiere, pour a generous amount of olive oil, maybe 1/2 inches deep, and the chopped onion. Add a little salt and sauté until onion is translucent. Add the chicken, with more salt, and brown until not pink but not overcooked. If the temperature gets too hot, add warm water to cover and continue to cook. Now add your dry spices including about 1/2 teaspoons salt and generous sprinkling of pepper. Before adding the saffron, dilute in hot water. Mix thoroughly and bring to a covered boil. Add all of tomato paste and mix thoroughly, then adding carrots, turnip and green peppers. Mix thoroughly, adding enough water to cover vegetables.
- Go back to your couscous and add about a 1/2 cup of water to wet more.
- Last, add your potatoes and give the stew a good stir making sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- Place the "steamer" part of the couscousiere atop the stew pot. Pour your wetted couscous; don't worry--it won't fall through the holes! Spread evenly. I like to make a little opening so steam can escape through a hole or two. Now put the lid on the top and turn down the heat to a simmer. Note: when stirring occasionally, have a plate ready to put the steamer part on while you stir the stew. Be sure to wear oven mitts because the steam can easily burn.
- By the time you put the top on, it takes about 20-30 minutes to cook. Your couscous will become very fluffy. If it looks too dry, pour some hot water over. Make sure your carrots are done before turning off, but be sure to turn off before your potatoes turn to mush. Just before removing, add your harissa and drained chick peas and mix thoroughly. (Some people ladle out some broth and add more harissa as an optional topping for those who like it extra hot!).
- Taste test for salt at the end. It should be slightly on the salty side to compensate for the bland couscous.
- Remove the couscous and pour into a large bowl. Stick a fork in your butter stick and coat thoroughly. The ladle out some broth and coat thoroughly for very wet consistency.
- Option #1 Place couscous in large bowl or platter and make a well in the center for a mixture of chicken and vegetables.
- Option #2 Mix chicken pieces and vegetables throughout the couscous.
- Option #3 Place the couscous and stew portions in a separate bowls for assembly at the table.
- Because of the amount of water you need to cover everything, you'll no doubt end up with more broth than needed. Once cool, freeze in freezer bags and it makes an ideal sauce for a quick pasta meal (just be sure to coat with butter first; it's a crucial step to make the sauce stick).
- Couscous is an extremely versatile dish inasmuch as it can be made with beef, lamb, fish or even spicy sausage (merguez) or even a combination!
- Note: if time is a factor, the stew portion can be made ahead of time and then simply reheated to add the couscous steamer on top.