September 20, 2011

Couscous Royal

I have to go through the motions again - if you are new to my blog, you are asked the following - every time you try one of my recipes - you are to feed one (or more) hungry person(s). Keep the Energy circulating. You've been given, you give back and you get back 10 fold. Simple no ?

Now for tonight's recipe - it's Couscous Royal - will make you feel like royalty, trust me. But made easy...I love easy and simple.

Now if you are a vegetarian - you do exactly same but skip the meat. Read on, I will tell you how **

If you're not a vegetarian, know that Couscous Royal consists of Meat, Chicken and Merguez.
For the sake of convenience, am skipping the meat bit. Contend yourselves with Chicken and Merguez. If you can't find Merguez, keep it to chicken.

What is Merguez ? it's basically a lamb/beef spicy sausage, found in North Africa, in particular Tunisia and Algeria. If you can't find Merguez in your local shop, don't fret, just settle with Chicken.

Assuming you do find Merguez where you live

You will need for 2 the following :

- 3 Merguez cut in equal pieces (I like to cut them because I like things thoroughly cooked)
- 2 large pieces of Chicken (up to you - drumsticks or chicken breasts, if drumsticks make it 4 pieces), with skin and bone.
- 1 large onion
- half a cinnamon stick
- 3 bays leaves
- 3 whole cardamom grains
- 4-5 cloves
- a few pepper corns (whole pepper)

For the vegetables you will need :

- 2 small carrots
- 1 and half cup of shredded cabbage
- 2 leeks chopped
- 1 turnip cut in chunks
- 1 courgette - stripped like a "zebra", then cut vertically then in two like thick sticks
- 1 celery stick - cut in equal pieces
- 4 branches of parsley, chopped
- 2-3 branches of fresh coriander/cilantro chopped

For the sauce you will need :

- the chicken stock which you will save (see later)
- about 1/4 spoon of Couscous spices also called Ras al Hanoot (which you can find in any North African shop and consists of ground: black pepper, dried chili, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic powder, ginger, mustard seeds, cloves)
- an added dash of ginger powder
- an added dash of paprika
- an added dash of cinnamon
- and 1/4 tsp of HARISSA - Harissa is a Spicy Hot Tunisian paste, (found in all North African shops) if you can't find Harissa just use red cayenne pepper.
- about 1 1/2 tbs of tomato paste. (keep in mind - not too light red, not too burgundy red for color)
- 1 can of canned chickpeas, rinsed and soaked in warm water with CUMIN.
- salt to taste.

Of course if you like it lukewarm skip the extra spices and just stick to the Couscous spices ready made mix.

For the actual semolina - i.e the Couscous itself :
you can find easy to prepare couscous, that takes about 5-7 mn. you don't need a couscousier (special pot for couscous)

So for 2 :

- 1 cup of couscous (read directions on pack but usually it is 1 cup and a bit of salted boiling water for one cup of couscous)
- a handful of sultanas or dried raisins
- a tsp of cumin seeds or powder
- one knob of butter or about 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil
- and a handful of the tinned soaked and drained chickpeas (see above).

Be patient, I know it looks like a long recipe but it's really very simple. We are going to take it one step at a time :

First the chicken :

- wash your chicken thoroughly and boil it with: the bay leaves, cloves, onion cut in 2, cinnamon stick, cardamom grains and pepper corn. Cover with enough water, bring to boil and let it cook gently until tender.

IF you are going to use Merguez sausages :

- wash them, cut them in pieces and in a non stick pan with NO oil, fry them until cooked. Set aside.

Meanwhile the Vegetables :

I always take the easy way - I cut them all in pieces as described above and steam them for about 15mn in electrical steamer . If you don't have a steamer, just boil them until HALF cooked

Once your chicken and merguez are ready...

- use the chicken broth drained and put in a deep non stick pan, dilute the tomato paste, the harissa, the spices, the chopped herbs (parsley plus coriander), add your chicken, your sausages, your half cooked veggies and a handful of drained chickpeas - they must be covered with the chicken broth, otherwise add a little water. Mix well, let it boil once and let it simmer on a slow low heat until all the flavors are absorbed.

Now for the semolina or couscous itself.

- follow the directions on your couscous pack, choose the easy couscous that takes 7 mn max.
- in a large deep pan, put your couscous grains, a handful of drained chickpeas (the ones you soaked before), some sultanas or dried raisins, add the cumin, plus a knob of butter or olive oil. Using a fork, mix well and separate the grains occasionally until they are all fluffed...

Serve with the chicken and merguez sauce.

** For Vegetarians, skip the chicken and merguez, just use boiling water with 1 vegetable stock plus your half cooked veggies, chickpeas, spices, and herbs...and proceed as above

Sahtein in Arabic or Bon Appétit.