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Couscous with vegetables and chickpeas

Couscous (Berber languages: ⵙⴽⵙⵓ, romanized: seksu) – sometimes called kusksi or kseksu – is a traditional Amazigh (Berber) dish of small steamed granules of rolled semolina that is often served with vegetables and a stew spooned on top. Originating from North Africa, it is a staple food in the Maghrebi cuisines of Morocco and Algeria.[1] Different types of couscous are also popular in countries such as Tunisia, Libya, Italy (where it is known as "Sicilian couscous"), Malta, Mauritania, and Brazil.

Couscous is not cooked, but rather steamed (over hot water), and is usually served as a main dish. Spices are indispensable, the most commonly used ones are Ras El Hanout, ginger, pepper and turmeric. These spices are added to the broth with chicken or red meat and vegetables. The stew should be plentiful because the couscous grain is dry, therefore absorbant. Couscous can also be served cold. In this case, may be the base of a salad accompanied with seafood, or it may be used to make Tabouleh. Couscous can also be used for sweets, by adding milk, raisins, or almonds.

Couscous was introduced to Al-Andalus (the Muslim-ruled area of the Iberian Peninsula in Europe) in the 12th century by the Almohad Caliphate, and spread eastward very early on, including to Syria, Sudan, and Egypt.[2] The dish also found its way into Italian cuisine, with some viewing it is a healthy alternative to pasta and rice.[3] In modern day Trapani, Sicily, the dish is still made to the medieval recipe of 13th century Muslim-Andalucían scholar Ibn Razīn al-Tujībī. Ligurian families that moved from Tabarka to Sardinia brought the dish with them to Carloforte in the 18th century.[4] In 2020, couscous was added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.[5]

Couscous originated in North Africa, also known as the Maghreb. It is believed couscous originated during the reign of Masinissa in the ancient kingdom of Numidia in present-day Algeria.[6]

Different types of Couscous

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Brazilian cake made with couscous

In Morocco, couscous is considered a national dish. Traditionally, wheat is bought at the local market and brought to the local mill to have granules ground into preferred degrees of fineness. Only then is it rolled by hand, followed by an addition of semolina seeds and cold salt water to moisten it. Flour is necessary to add to thicken the couscous. While couscous is often a dish that is served under meat or a vegetable stew, it can also be eaten alone flavored or plain, warm or cold, as a dessert or a side dish. In Morocco, it is prepared using a variety of other elements popular with children such as dried fruit, nuts, and cinnamon.[7]

Algerian couscous is a traditional staple food in Algeria, and it plays an important role in Algerian culture and cuisine. It is commonly served with vegetables, meat, or fish. In Algeria, there are various types of couscous dishes.

In Tunisia, couscous is usually spicy, made with harissa sauce, and served commonly with vegetables and meat, including lamb, fish, seafood, beef, and sometimes (in southern regions) camel. Fish couscous is a Tunisian specialty and can also be made with octopus, squid or other seafood in a hot, red, spicy sauce. Couscous can also be served as a dessert. It is then called Masfuf. Masfuf can also contain raisins, grapes, or pomegranate seeds.

In Libya, couscous is mostly served with lamb (but sometimes camel meat or, rarely, beef) in Tripoli and the western parts of Libya, but not during official ceremonies or weddings. Another way to eat couscous is as a dessert; it is prepared with dates, sesame, and pure honey and is locally referred to as maghrood.

Sicilian couscous is a type of couscous in Italy. It is used in food festivals in local regions all across Italy.[8] Fish couscous is also typical of western Sicily.[9] The best known couscous in Italy is the Trapani preparation, called in the local dialect cùscusu: couscous is steamed in a special enameled clay pot, with fish broth. In Italy, couscous is considered a healthy alternative to the much-beloved pasta and rice with a light texture and a mild flavor. It goes well in sweet desserts, hearty casseroles or mouth-watering appetizers.[10]

In Malta, small round pasta slightly larger than typical couscous is known as kusksu. It is commonly used in a dish of the same name, which includes broad beans (known in Maltese as ful) and ġbejniet, a local type of cheese.[11]

In Mauritania, the couscous uses large wheat grains (mabroum) and is darker than the yellow couscous of Morocco. It is cooked with lamb, beef, or camel meat together with vegetables, primarily onion, tomato, and carrots, then mixed with a sauce and served with ghee, locally known as dhen.

In Brazil, couscous is a typical dish from the northeast of the country, which is part of the three meals of the day. It is commonly prepared with starch, wheat flour, corn, rice or cassava. In the southeast of the country, it is consumed with butter, eggs or meat. In the north, it is more common for couscous to be eaten for breakfast, made with coconut milk and accompanied by tapioca. In general, all types of side dishes are accepted. Other examples of foods eaten with couscous are fish, shrimp, and chicken.

Couscous is sold in most supermarkets across Europe and the United States and has been pre-steamed and dried; the package instructions usually mention adding 1.5 measures of boiling water or stock and butter to each measure of couscous and to cover tightly for five minutes. The couscous then swells and within a few minutes it is ready to fluff with a fork and serve. Pre-steamed couscous takes less time to prepare than regular couscous.


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  1. https://www.newarab.com/news/couscous-added-unesco-list-following-algeria-morocco-agreement?amp
  2. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=51XOEAAAQBAJ&pg=PT31&dq=couscous+spread+by+almohads&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&source=gb_mobile_search&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjNmfP3s72DAxWlVUEAHSzXDPQQ6AF6BAgFEAM#v=onepage&q&f=false
  3. https://www.martinotaste.com/en/blog-en-2/couscous_history_of_the_mediterranean_food/#:~:text=Couscous%20is%20a%20food%20with,Africa%2C%20especially%20in%20the%20Maghreb Archived 2024-01-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Zaouali, Lilia (September 2009). Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A Concise History with 174 Recipes. Univ of California Press. pp. 45–46. ISBN 978-0-520-26174-7.
  5. "UNESCO adds couscous to list of intangible world heritage". Al Jazeera English. December 16, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  6. https://www.migrantconnections.com/post/fatiha-couscous-a-short-story#:~:text=The%20oldest%20known%20traces%20of,the%20culture%20of%20the%20wheat.
  7. https://travel-exploration.com/subpage.cfm/Couscous
  8. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=SSHSB8VOL3oC&pg=PA11&dq=italian+cuisine+couscous&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&source=gb_mobile_search&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj2gpyS2L2DAxWlUkEAHU5aCqs4KBDoAXoECAgQAw#v=onepage&q&f=false
  9. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Lo2cEAAAQBAJ&pg=PT541&dq=fish+couscous+sicilian&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&source=gb_mobile_search&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjN6e-T372DAxVyRkEAHepUCdEQ6AF6BAgOEAM#v=onepage&q&f=false
  10. https://www.martinotaste.com/en/blog-en-2/couscous_history_of_the_mediterranean_food/#:~:text=Couscous%20is%20a%20food%20with,Africa%2C%20especially%20in%20the%20Maghreb Archived 2024-01-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. "Kusksu - A traditional Maltese soup made with broad beans, peas and giant couscous". A Maltese Mouthful. 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2023-08-26.

Other websites

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