Original article published at TasteAtlas.
Numerous tiny, light, tender grains, ideally arranged to form a pyramid and served on a platter at the end of a meal – that is couscous, the national dish of Morocco and a must-have dish in any Moroccan restaurant. The word itself refers both to the complete dish and the tiny grains of semolina.
Semolina flour is sprinkled with water until it forms into tiny pellets that are then pushed through a sieve. Couscous is usually prepared on Fridays for lunch, when whole families get together for the most important meal of the week. The dish is traditionally made in a metal steamer pot called a couscoussier, where the stew is on the bottom, while the small grains are in the perforated basket on top, cooking in the steam that is rising from the rich stew.
Although couscous dishes are often full of vegetables, they are rarely vegetarian. Some classics include couscous with seven vegetables and couscous with raisins and caramelized onions, but there are many more varieties such as spicy with chili peppers, sweet with chickpeas, lamb and raisins, Berber-style with chicken, milk and turnips, or fish couscous with fish, fennel stalks, and wild turnips. There is even a dessert couscous dish served with butter and enhanced with cinnamon and sugar.
After couscous is served, it is covered with meat or fish and vegetables, while the broth from the same stew is served on the side, for the ones who want to ladle some on top of the grains. However, don’t be mistaken – it is not the main course, as it is served at the end of a long string of courses to totally satiate the consumer, as the popular Arabian hospitality saying goes – “No guest should go home hungry”.