COUSCOUS | A versatile and popular alternative to rice and pasta
Couscous. A staple in North Africa, not many know how versatile these small steamed balls of semolina can be. Consisting of many tiny granules made from steamed and dried durum wheat, couscous has become a popular alternative to rice and pasta.
In Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, couscous is steamed over a simmered stew after being tossed with a little water or oil and water. This takes much longer than the ‘instant’ method, whereby couscous is boiled in water or stock for 5 minutes and then steamed for another 5 minutes before being “fluffed up” with a fork.
For myself, the beauty of couscous lies with its cross functional applicability between a pilaf and a salad. For this simple recipe, I have added a pinch of saffron to add a bit of colour and delicate taste. For some tangy sweetness I added some cranberries and for the crunch factor, some crushed roasted almonds. Feel free to throw in some pine nuts too!
Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds
TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes | SERVES: 4
- 2 chopped shallot
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 cup of wholemeal couscous (or plain)
- 1.5 cups of water (if using wholemeal)
- pinch of salt and black pepper, to taste
- pinch of saffron threads
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1. Soak saffron threads in half cup of boiling water to release the flavours. Remember, a little pinch of saffron goes a long way.
2. In the meantime, chop the shallots.
3. Roast the almonds on medium-high heat by stirring gently on a pan (about 1-2 minutes). Once roasted, crush with mortar and pestle.
4. Pour tablespoon of olive oil into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Throw in shallots and stir for one minute.
5. Add the remaining cup of water. Once boiling, throw in the couscous, add a pinch of salt and pepper and let it cook for 5 minutes before closing the lid. Let it rest for another 5 minutes.
6. Juice the lemon and remove the pips.
7. Once couscous is done, remove the lid from the saucepan and pour in the lemon juice, cranberries, and crushed almonds. Fluff with fork until fluffy in texture.
8. Serve while warm. Feel free to sprinkle some pine nuts an additional cranberries on top for garnishing.