There is nothing to beat this traditional North African dish that we know so well in France but I discovered recently by talking to a couple of friends who live abroad that for many, couscous is just the pre-steamed and dried semolina, the tiny grain granules that come in a packet.
This is true, but did you know there is another related meaning of couscous?
Couscous, the dish, is an elaborate well balanced meal re-introduced to France by the 900,000 or so Piets Noirs who made France their home after the Algerian war. Piet Noirs are French citizens who lived in Algeria before independence. Also longing for home cooking were the Harkis, the local men who served as soldiers for France; they too made their way to France at the same time.
This dish is so well appreciated here that it was voted second place by the French in 2006, first place in 2009 and the third favorite dish of the French in 2011.
So what exactly is a couscous?
Like curries there is no one recipe. In its basic form, this combination dish will contain the semolina grains served together with a tureen of spicy vegetable stew large enough so everyone can be served copiously and also because the stew will absorb the couscous grains. The meat can be chicken, mutton, lamb or even fish.
Then there is the harissa, the hot chilli paste combined with garlic and herbs which will give the couscous an extra kick. My hostess combined some stew with the paste for those of us who like it hot.
Merguez sausages, the hot spicy African sausages and lamb meatballs.
Served separately were a bowl of chick peas and some raisins.
We helped ourselves to a pile of couscous on our plates, some meat, and ladled the stew over adding a bit of harissa sauce, some chick peas and raisins.
A great way to say goodbye to the old, and to bring in the New.
Happy New Year to all