Cookbook Profile

Moroccan Couscous from Mogador

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Moroccan Couscous from Mogador
A North African Jewish woman makes couscous.


When Suzon Meymy rubs the grains of ready-made couscous between her fingers to separate them, she thinks about her mother, the couscous-maker of Mogador. Unlike Suzon, her mother prepared couscous from scratch. First she would take a kilo or so of coarse semolina, moisten it with a little water, and carefully separate the grains. Then she would rake the fingers of her right hand through the semolina in sweeping circular movements, creating the tiny pellets of couscous. She would rub them against the weave of a fine basket to shape them, and they were then laid out to dry. Afterward, she would pass the couscous several times through a wood-handled sieve to obtain granules of uniform size. Finally, she would steam the couscous twice in a couscoussier, a special pot similar to a double-level steamer, which was filled with different kinds of hearty meat-and-vegetable stews.

Today, with the availability of presteamed "instant" couscous, the process is much easier. Even so, Suzon mimics the gestures she learned from her mother, rubbing her fingers through the grains. Each time she makes this dish, it is a return to her childhood, her family, and a life that is no more in a small coastal town in Morocco.

Although with instant couscous you really don't need to steam the couscous, I still do, to fluff it up and make it lighter. If you do not have a coucoussier, use a regular stockpot with a vegetable steamer. If the holes are too big, simply line the steamer with cheesecloth to prevent the couscous grains from falling through.

Bring about 3 cups water to a boil. Put the couscous in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt, and cover with enough of the boiling water to cover by about an inch. Let sit for about 30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. If you are short on time, you can skip the last step of this recipe and merely sprinkle the couscous with water and put it in the microwave for a minute or two, always separating the grains with your fingers before serving.

Drizzle the oil over the grains, and gently rub them with your fingers to break apart any lumps. Let sit for another 15 minutes.

Then, if you want, steam the couscous. Set a couscoussier or a cheesecloth-lined vegetable steamer in a stockpot with a few inches of simmering water, broth, or soupy stew. The couscous should sit not in the liquid but, rather, a few inches above it. Try to keep the steam from escaping from the sides of the pot. Set a timer for 15 minutes once you start seeing steam rise through the couscous.


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This page created December 2010