Traditional North African Couscous (The Real Way!)

Recipe by Um Safia
READY IN: 2hrs 25mins
YIELD: 8 portions




  • Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic & place it in a large heavy bottomed pan with the meat or chicken, ras el hanout & a little olive oil. Fry gently to seal the meat/chicken. I use my pressure cooker pr large cast iron casserole for this.
  • Chop the carrot, parsnip and courgette into 6ths. Cut the potato into 1/4's and roughly chop the swede. Chop khourchef or celery into roughly same size as carrot. (Peel the carrots, potato, parsnip and swede).
  • Add the vegetables to the meat along with 1L of water and turn up heat so they begin simmering. If using the chilli add it now, along with salt and pepper. If cooking in a regular pan then cook for 40 minutes like this. If using the pressure cooker as I do then 20 minutes will be enough.
  • Add the tomatoes, chick peas and dried mint and 1/2L more water or enough to create a 'stew' consistency.
  • Return to heat and cook in pan for further 30 minutes and if using pressure cooker then cook on med to high for a further 25 minutes.
  • Take a 500g pack of medium couscous and pour into a gas'a if you have one. If not find the biggest bowl you have. Pick out any 'bits' and sprinkle water - about 50mls and a tsp of salt over the couscous and using your hand rub 1/2 tsp of oil through the couscous to stop it sticking. Fill a couscousier or steamer half full with the couscous (as it swells).
  • When you 1st notice steam coming from the couscous, count 10 minutes. After that remove from the steamer, place in gas'a and use your hands to 'open' the couscous (rub it together between hands to remove clumps). This is very hot and you need to keep wetting you hand with cold water and sprinkling a little on the couscous.
  • Return to steamer when thoroughly opened. Repeat process of steaming and opening twice more.
  • Finally remove from steamer and place back in gas'a. Open for final time and rub a tbsp of ghee or smen into the couscous along with 2tsp of butter or margarine. Add salt to taste.
  • Serve the couscous in the gas'a with sauce on top as traditional style or in tagine etc. Usually we place the meat/chicken in place - 1 for each guest and decorate the couscous with the veg before ladling some of the sauce over the top.
  • If you used the chilli, put it on a plate and let people help themselves to it!