Saturday, February 6, 2016

couscous friday

There's this marvellous thing that happens on Fridays in Morocco: couscous. A staple of kitchens across the Maghreb, couscous is crushed semolina that is steamed to a delightfully fluffy consistency and served with a stew of meat and veggies. Highly labour intensive, couscous typically happens on Fridays, the holy day in Muslim tradition, when families get together after prayers to enjoy a meal together. Pedro says it's very much like Sunday lunches with the family in Portugal, which no doubt is Christian in origin.

During the past six months in Morocco, I've been sampling couscous when I can get it, and what I have noticed is that it can vary considerably in flavour depending on who is making it. It can be bland or overly buttery, and it might be served with cinnamony caramelised onions (my favourite), or dried fruit— a happy discovery made at a restaurant in Meknès.

Couscous is often served with a glass of leben, a sour-tasting buttermilk. The idea is that drinking water will expand the couscous in your stomach and cause you unwanted distress, whereas the leben will aid in the digestion of all that goodness you just ate. Whether it expands or not, you are guaranteed to feel full and slip into what is lovingly referred to by my colleagues as the Couscous Coma. Try teaching a classroom of eighteen sleepy kids after a couscous lunch on a Friday, when you yourself could just curl up for a nap!

Well at least there's always a glass of mint tea to help wake you up.


dinahmow said...

What a lovely post.And, yes, the cook and the "touch" can make all the difference. Not just to couscous!

Suzi said...

Brian Wood wrote a fantastic comic book/graphic novel called Couscous Express, which I love and think you would as well!
And now I want couscous, of course.....
Book description: Love, war, family and the best hummus recipe in New York City Scooter enthusiast and spoiled brat, Olive Yassin, delivers food for her parents' award-winning Middle Eastern restaurant, Couscous Express. She hates it. It's boring. She would much rather be hanging out with her courier-mercenary boyfriend, Moustafa. But when the local branch of the stylish and dangerous Turkish Scooter Mafia make a move against the restaurant, she knows she has to do something, anything, to protect her family. Couscous Express combines delicious food, automatic weapons fire, and scooter culture into a hectic, adrenaline-fueled story of love, family, war, and the best hummus recipe in New York City.