Couscous is a beloved and popular dish internationally. Although we know it has been around for centuries, its definite origins are unclear. Like pasta, many believe couscous was created in China, while others believe it originated in East Africa. More likely, however, couscous originated in Northern Africa. There is archaeological evidence that dates back to the early 9th century that consists of the kitchen utensil needed to prepare the dish from North Africa.
Over time, the North African staple became popular around Africa, in Andalusia, and the Mediterranean. Economic growth and the development of wheat farming aided in the acceleration and distribution of couscous. With increased migration from North Africa to multiple European destinations, couscous was popularized all around Europe and became very popular internationally, particularly in France.
In Morocco, couscous is a time-honored dish, typically served on Fridays and meant to eat with a group of people, either family or friends, or both.
While some recipes also contain meat, typically chicken or beef, this recipe sticks to only vegetables. It is perfect dressed with spicy Tunisian harissa and sweet, spiced, caramelized onions.
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 small turnips, peeled and quartered
2 yellow onions, quartered
3 large carrots, peeled and halved width wise then halved length-
1 bulb fennel, thickly sliced
1/4 small cabbage, cut into 2 or three slices
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups water
1 pound butternut squash, cut into 2” cubes
4 small zucchini, halved
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes, ribbed into large chunks, with juices
For the couscous:
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups instant whole wheat couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
Additional Condiments (delicious but optional):
Spiced, caramelized onions with raisins (recipe HERE)
To a large, deep, pot, add the garlic, turnips, onions, carrots, fennel, cabbage, raisins, ginger, salt, cumin, paprika, sugar, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat. Simmer until the vegetables begin to soften (approximately 10 minutes).
Add the squash, zucchini, chickpeas, parsley, and tomato chunks. Simmer, covered, until the sauce begins to thicken and the vegetables are tender (approximately 15 minutes). If some vegetables are done cooking before others, they can be removed from the pot with a slotted spoon and put back into the stew once ready to serve.
For the couscous, you can use either regular or whole grain. Follow directions according to package. Adding stock to the uncooked couscous creates more flavor. I recommend adding equal parts couscous and boiling stock together along with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Typically, you can add the boiling stock and oil to the instant couscous, remove from heat, and allow to sit, covered, for 5-6 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and you’re good to go!
To serve, spread the couscous over a serving platter. Place seven vegetable mixture over top the couscous, then spoon extra broth over entire dish. Season with harissa and spiced, caramelized onions, if desired.