Couscous is a versatile dish, easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you have around you, be it lamb, poultry, or fish; it can even be made as a vegetarian dish featuring just vegetables.
It is one of the most well-known dishes to originate in the Tunisian-region.
- ½ kilo meat of your choice – chopped into stew-sized chunks (optional)
- ½ kilo couscous – easily found at your local market or grocery store
- ½ cup olive oil – extra virgin olive oil is best, if you can find it
- 2 medium onions – diced
- 2 green peppers – sliced
- 2 1/2 whole potatoes – cubed
- 2 carrots – sliced
- 1 pumpkin – cubed
- 1 can chickpeas – can be substituted for dried chickpeas if you soak them overnight and leave in a pressure cooker for 25 minutes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 ½ tsp harissa*
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- ½ tbsp paprika
- ½ tbsp cinnamon
- ½ tbsp cumin
Harissa is a special Tunisian chili paste featured in many different native dishes. It can be found in most grocery stores or specialty markets but if you cannot find it, it is easy to prepare yourself. Ingredients typically used in a harissa paste include a medley of hot peppers, garlic, coriander and vegetable oil.
Pour your seasonings over the meat you chose to use. Rub the spices into the meat to make sure they are evenly dispersed.
Then, set the meat and into a large cooking pot, along with the oil and onions. Let these components cook for a while. Note: if you chose to make a vegetarian dish, skip this step. Add the seasonings to your vegetables instead.
When the onions start to caramelize (they will look a little brownish and taste slightly sweeter), pour in the tomato paste, chickpeas and about 8 oz of water. Set this to a boil and leave it alone for 15 minutes.
Make sure your vegetables are properly chopped, diced or chunked. It helps if they are somewhat equally sized. Add these vegetables into your pot, along with another liter of water. Allow this to continue boiling.
Separately, place a metal colander or steamer over the pot, run the couscous under water, and then place it inside the steamer. Steam the couscous for about half an hour.
Add your potatoes into the sauce inside the pot. Additionally, wet the couscous again and add in a touch of the sauce, for color – this will make it more visually appealing. Let the sauce and couscous cook for another 20 minutes or so.
Pour your freshly steamed couscous into a large bowl or soup dish, along with a generous spoonful of sauce. Stir this mixture a couple of times (but not too many or it will get cold).
Then, add your vegetables and meat on top; remember presentation adds a lot to any meal, so arrange them with care. Finally, eat your Tunisian meal with pride and enjoyment!