Couscous

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For the possum species, see Cuscus. For the ancient Chilean village, see Cuz Cuz. For the French film, see The Secret of the Grain.
Couscous
Couscous of Fes.JPG
Couscous served with vegetables and chickpeas
Place of origin North Africa [1]
Region or state North Africa
Main ingredients Semolina
Cookbook: Couscous  Media: Couscous

Couscous (Arabic: الكسكس Kuskus - Berber: ⵙⵉⴽⵙⵓ Seksu) is a North African dish of small steamed balls of semolina, usually served with a stew spooned on top. Couscous is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya and to a lesser extent in the Middle East and Trapani in Sicily.[citation needed]

Etymology[edit]

The original name is derived from the Arabic word Keskes, which refers to the cookingpot in which the dish is prepared.[2]

Numerous different names and pronunciations for couscous exist around the world. Couscous is /ˈkʊskʊs/ or /ˈksks/ in the United Kingdom and only the latter in the United States. It is in Arabic: كسكسي‎‎, pronounced kuskusi, while it is also known in Morocco as seksu or kesksu ; in Algeria as seksu or ṭa`ām (طعام, literally meaning "food") ; in Tunisia and Libya kosksi or kuseksi , in Egypt kuskusi (كسكسي), ; and keskes in Tuareg.[3]

History[edit]

The origin of couscous is uncertain. Lucie Bolens affirms that Berbers were preparing couscous as early as 238 to 149 b.c.e.Lucie Bolens described primitive couscous pots found in tombs dating back to the reign of the Berber King Massinissa.[4] Nevertheless, Charles Perry states that couscous originated between the end of the Zirid dynasty and the rise of the Almohadian dynasty between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries.[5] The remains of the first vessels ( known ) in the Tiaret region ( Algeria ) where cooking tools dating from the ninth century have been discovered, very strongly resemble the primary tool for cooking couscous [6]

One of the first written references is from an anonymous 13th-century North African cookbook, Kitāb al-tabǐkh fǐ al-Maghrib wa'l-Andalus "The cookbook of the Maghreb and Andalusia", with a recipe for couscous that was 'known all over the world'. To this day, couscous is known as 'the North Africa national dish'.[7] Couscous was known to the Nasrid royalty in Granada as well. And in the 13th century a Syrian historian from Aleppo includes four references for couscous. These early mentions show that couscous spread rapidly, but generally that couscous was common from Tripolitania to the west, while from Cyrenaica to the east the main cuisine was Egyptian, with couscous as an occasional dish. Today, in Egypt and the Middle East, couscous is known, but in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya couscous is a staple. It is also common in Western Africa whence it has spread into Central Africa. It is the national dish of the Maghreb countries. Couscous reached Turkey from Syria to in the 16th century and is eaten in most of the Turkish southern provinces.

Couscous is a traditional dish in Trapani, Sicily. In Rome Bartolomeo Scappi's culinary guide of 1570 describes a Moorish dish, succussu.[8]

One of the earliest references to couscous in France is in Brittany, in a letter dated January 12, 1699. But it made an earlier appearance in Provence, where the traveler Jean-Jacques Bouchard wrote of eating it in Toulon in 1630. Couscous was originally made from millet.[9] Historians have different opinions as to when wheat began to replace the use of millet. The conversion seems to have occurred sometime in the 20th century, although many regions continue to use the traditional millet. Couscous seems to have a North African origin. Archaeological evidence dating back to the 10th century, consisting of kitchen utensils needed to prepare this dish, has been found in this part of the world.

Ibn Battuta statement of "from it kuskusu and porridge are made"

This quotation contains what may be the earliest mention of couscous (kuskusu) in Western Africa. Ibn Battuta (b. Morocco, AD 1304-1368? ) was the greatest traveler and travel writer of his era. His Rihlah (or Travels) documents a lifetime of travels and employment in every Muslim society, and many non-Muslim societies, in the Eastern hemisphere. He traveled to Western Africa in the early 1350s; his writings of that journey are an important source for modern historians studying medieval Africa. This quotation comes from the translation in Ibn Battuta in Black Africa by Said Hamdun and Noël King (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1994).

[Mali, 1351-1352 AD] "When the traveler arrives in a village the women of the blacks come with anlî and milk and chickens and flour of nabaq [lotus], rice, and fûnî [fonio], this is like the grain of mustard and from it kuskusu and porridge are made, and bean flour. He buys from them what he likes, but not rice, as eating the rice is harmful to white men and the fûnî is better than it."[10]

Evidence is mounting that the process of couscous cookery, especially steaming grain over a broth in a special pot, might have originated before the tenth century in the area of West Africa where the medieval Sudanic kingdom thrived, today encompassing parts of the contemporary nations of Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. Even today in the region of Youkounkoun of Guinea and Senegal, a millet couscous with meat or peanut sauce is made, as well as a rice couscous.

Millet was also used for couscous by the Kel Ahaggar, a nomadic people of the desert of southern Algeria, who probably learned about it in the West African Sudan, where it has been known for centuries. Ibn Baṭṭūṭa journeyed to Mali in 1352, and in today’s Mauritania he had a millet couscous: “When the traveler arrives in a village the negresses take out millet, sour milk, chickens, lotus-flour, rice, founi [Digitaria exilis Stapf.], which resembles mustard grains, and they make a couscous.” Ibn Baṭṭūṭa also mentions rice couscous in the area of Mali in 1350. Millet couscous was never as popular as hard wheat couscous because it took longer to cook and didn’t taste as good.

This claim for the African origins of couscous was originally proposed by Professor É. Lévi-Provençal, in his monumental Histoire de l’Espagne Musulmane and is suggested in the early Arabic sources on West Africa. Other studies, such as Professor Robert Hall’s, using the tenth-century work of Ibn al-Faqīh’s Mukhtasar Kitāb al-Buldān, also seem to support this suggestion. In West Africa, one finds sorghum, founi, black fonio (Digitaria iburua), and finger millet (Eleusine coracana), a cereal of Nigeria (also cultivated in India) made into couscous. The Hausa of central Nigeria and the Lambas of Togo call this couscous made with black fonio, wusu-wusu. Sorghum was a popular grain for making couscous, and the Moroccan Berber word for sorghum, illan or ilni, is the same as the word in the West African language of Songhai, illé, lending further circumstantial evidence for an African genesis for couscous.[11]

In some regions couscous is made from Farina or coarsely ground barley or pearl millet. In Brazil, the traditional couscous is made from cornmeal.[12]

Preparation[edit]

Brown couscous with vegetables in Tunisia

The semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets, sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then sieved. Any pellets that are too small to be finished granules of couscous fall through the sieve and are again rolled and sprinkled with dry semolina and rolled into pellets. This process continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny granules of couscous. This process is labor-intensive. In the traditional method of preparing couscous, groups of women came together to make large batches over several days,[citation needed] which were then dried in the sun and used for several months. Couscous was traditionally made from the hard part of the durum, the part of the grain that resisted the grinding of the millstone. In modern times, couscous production is largely mechanized, and the product is sold in markets around the world.

In the Sahelian countries of West Africa, such as Mali and Senegal, pearl millet is pounded or milled to the size and consistency necessary for the couscous.[13]

A couscoussier, a traditional steamer for couscous.

Properly cooked couscous is light and fluffy, not gummy or gritty. Traditionally, North Africans use a food steamer (called aTaseksut in Berber, a كِسْكَاس kiskas in Arabic or a couscoussier in French). The base is a tall metal pot shaped rather like an oil jar in which the meat and vegetables are cooked as a stew. On top of the base, a steamer sits where the couscous is cooked, absorbing the flavours from the stew. The lid to the steamer has holes around its edge so steam can escape. It is also possible to use a pot with a steamer insert. If the holes are too big, the steamer can be lined with damp cheesecloth. There is little archaeological evidence of early diets including couscous, possibly because the original couscoussier was probably made from organic materials that could not survive extended exposure to the elements.

Instant couscous[edit]

The couscous that is sold in most Western supermarkets has been pre-steamed and dried. It is typically prepared by adding 1.5 measures of boiling water or stock to each measure of couscous then leaving covered tightly for about 5 minutes. Pre-steamed couscous takes less time to prepare than regular couscous, most dried pasta, or dried grains (such as rice).

Local variations[edit]

Couscous with various toppings

In Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya, couscous is generally served with vegetables (carrots, potatoes, turnips, etc.) cooked in a spicy or mild broth or stew, and some meat (generally, chicken, lamb or mutton).

In Algeria and Morocco it is also served, sometimes at the end of a meal or just by itself, as a delicacy called "seffa". The couscous is usually steamed several times until it is very fluffy and pale in color. It is then sprinkled with almonds, cinnamon and sugar. Traditionally, this dessert is served with milk perfumed with orange flower water, or it can be served plain with buttermilk in a bowl as a cold light soup for supper.

In Tunisia, it is made mostly spicy with harissa sauce and served with almost everything, including lamb, fish, seafood, beef and sometimes in southern regions, camel. Fish couscous is a Tunisian specialty and can also be made with octopus, squid or other seafood in hot, red, spicy sauce. Couscous in Tunisia is served on every occasion; it is also served in some regions (mostly during Ramadan), sweetened as a dessert called masfouf.

In Libya, it is mostly served with meat, specifically mostly lamb, but also camel, and very rarely beef, in Tripoli and the western parts of Libya, but not during official ceremonies or weddings. Another way to eat couscous is as a dessert; it is prepared with dates, sesame, and pure honey, and locally referred to as "maghrood".

Israelis typically serve it on occasions and holidays. It was brought by Maghrebi migrants from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya to Israel.

In Egypt, couscous is eaten more as a dessert. It is prepared with butter, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and nuts and topped with cream.

Couscous is also very popular in France, where it is now considered a traditional dish, and has also become popular in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. Indeed, many polls have indicated that it is often a favorite dish. Study conducted on January 11 and 12, 2006, for the magazine Notre Temps based on face-to-face interviews with a sample of 1,000 people representative of the adult French population, stratified by age, sex, profession of the head of household, region and type of municipality. Couscous is served in many Maghrebi restaurants all over the world. In France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, the word "couscous" (cuscús in Spanish and Italian; cuscuz in Portuguese) usually refers to couscous together with the stew. Packaged sets containing a box of quick-preparation couscous and a can of vegetables and, generally, meat are sold in French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese grocery stores and supermarkets. In France, it is generally served with harissa sauce, a style inherited from the Tunisian cuisine. Indeed, couscous was voted as the third-favourite dish of French people in 2011 in a study by TNS Sofres for magazine Vie Pratique Gourmand, and the first in the east of France.[14][15]

In North America, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, couscous is available most commonly either plain or pre-flavoured in quick-preparation boxes. In the United States, it is widely available, normally found in the ethnic or health-food section of larger grocery stores.

There are related recipes in Latin America, where a corn meal mix is boiled and moulded into a timbale with other ingredients. Among them, cuscuz (Portuguese pronunciation: [kusˈkus]), a popular recipe usually associated with Northeastern Brazil and its diaspora, a steamed cake of corn meal served with sugar and milk, varied meats, cheese and eggs or other ingredients.

Maftoul is considered as a special type of couscous but made from different ingredients and a different shape. It is larger than North African couscous. Maftoul is an Arabic word derived from the root "fa-ta-la", which means to roll or to twist, which is exactly describing the method used to make maftoul by hand rolling bulgur with wheat flour.[16]

In Israel there is a dish similar to maftoul (by look, not taste) called ptitim, which has many variations and can appear as a mini triangles, or looking like rice (the original type, sometimes called 'Ben Gurion rice') and many other variations. The most famous variation of ptitim looks like couscous and as Americans started to call it "Israeli couscous", the Osem company started to produce it outside Israel under this name. Ptitim is not the same as mograbia (a.k.a. maftoul, pearl couscous etc.), though the two can be used similarly. Mograbia is a coated couscous; ptitim is an extruded paste. The word "maftoul" is sometimes incorrectly used in America to refer to Israeli couscous.

Nutrition[edit]

Nutrition facts
Serving size 1 cup (173 g)
Servings per container Information is per cooked couscous as determined by Nutrient Data Laboratory, ARS, USDA.[17]
Amount per serving
Calories 176 Calories from fat 2
% Daily value*
Total fat 0.25 g 0%
   Saturated fat 0.05 g 0%
   Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 8 mg 0%
Potassium 91 mg 3%
Total carbohydrate 36 g 12%
   Dietary fiber 2 g 1%
   Sugars 0 g
Protein 6 g
Vitamin A 0%      Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%      Iron 2%
*Percent daily values are based on a 2,000‑calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Couscous has 3.6 g of protein for every 100 grams. Furthermore, couscous contains a 1% fat-to-calorie ratio.[18]

Similar products[edit]

  • Attiéké is a variety of couscous that is a staple food in Ivory Coast and is also known to surrounding regions of West Africa, made from grated cassava.
  • Wassa wassa is another variety of couscous made in northern Togo made from yams.
  • Berkoukesh are pasta bullets made by the same process, but are larger than the grains of couscous.
  • Kouskousaki (Κουσκουσάκι in Greek or kuskus in Turkish), a pasta from Greece and Turkey, that is boiled and served with cheese and walnuts.
  • In Brazilian cuisine, the "cuscuz marroquino" is a version, usually eaten cold, of the "couscous". Brazilian cuscuz is usually made out of corn meal, rather than semolina wheat. Another festive moulded couscous dish, containing chicken, vegetables, spices, steamed in a mould and decorated with orange slices is called "Cuscuz de Galinha".
  • In Lebanese cuisine, Jordanian cuisine and Palestinian cuisine, a similar but larger product is known as maftoul or moghrabieh.
  • "Israeli couscous" (in Hebrew פתיתים 'flakes' ), also called "ptitim", is a larger, baked wheat product similar to the Italian orzo.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ History of Couscous
  2. ^ Habeeb Salloum, Leila Salloum Elias, Muna Salloum, Scheherazade's Feasts: Foods of the Medieval Arab World, 2013, ISBN 081224477X, p. 93
  3. ^ Charles de Foucauld, Dictionnaire touareg-français, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1950–52, p. 919
  4. ^ (Bolens, 1989, p. 61)
  5. ^ (Perry, 1990, p. 177)
  6. ^ (Lucy Bolens, 1990, p.282)
  7. ^ 'Traditional North Africa Cooking, by Madame Guinaudeau. p.81. ISBN 1-897959-43-5
  8. ^ John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food (New York, 2008) pp. 15, 115, 264f.
  9. ^ See numerous books describing couscous as boiled millet: http://www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=millet+couscous&tbs=,cdr:1,cd_min:Jan%203_2%201,cd_max:Dec%2031_2%201922&num=10#q=millet+couscous&hl=en&tbs=bks:1,cdr:1,cd_min:Jan+3_2+1,cd_max:Dec+31_2+1922&ei=vGxCTdLYEcPbgQeFnc2JAg&start=0&sa=N&fp=64aa18c4243f0c16
  10. ^ http://www.congocookbook.com/staple_dish_recipes/couscous.html
  11. ^ http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/id/34/
  12. ^ Receitas
  13. ^ Sivak MN. Starch: Basic Science to Biotechnology. Academic Press, 1998, ISBN 0-12-016441-8, p. 132
  14. ^ Les plats préférés des Français, enquête réalisée en août 2011 pour le magazine Vie Pratique Gourmand auprès d'un échantillon national de 999 personnes représentatif de l'ensemble de la population âgée de 18 ans et plus, interrogées en face à face. Méthode des quotas (sexe, âge, profession du chef de ménage PCS) et stratification par région et catégorie d’agglomération.
  15. ^ Magret is the No1 dish for French
  16. ^ [1] Palestinian Couscous: Kitchen of Palestine
  17. ^ Couscous, dry – NDB No: 20028 United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Retrieved December 18, 2007.
  18. ^ "Calories in Rice Pilaf". LIVESTRONG.COM – Nutrition Facts, and Healthy Alternatives. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  19. ^ The Canadian Living Test Kitchen. "Discover Couscous". Canadian Living Magazine. 

External links[edit]