How to make Couscous!

How to Make Kasksou or Couscous from Scratch 
How to Steam Couscous

Façon grand-mère de préparer les grains de Couscouss
Comment faire cuire Couscous à la vapeur

سْكْسو أو كْسْكْسو

Phonetically, Kasksou is pronounced as:  /kʌsksuː/ and Couscouss as:/ˈkuːs.kuːs/.  Couscous or Kasksou is a very popular and traditional dish in Northern, Western and Central Africa, and it is made of cracked or crushed wheat to form a sort of spherical granules, obtained by agglomeration of hard wheat semolina.  There are so many different couscous recipes, which vary from one country to another, but in this blog, I look forward to posting Typical Moroccan Couscous.

In Morocco, there are 3 major types of Couscous:

1-Couscous made with hard wheat

2-Couscous made with barley that Imazighn in the South of Morocco call Timzine (In Moroccan Arabic means Ch3ir = الشّْعيِرْ)

3-Couscous made with cornmeal flour that Imazighn in the South of Morocco call  Abaddaz or Baddaz (In Moroccan Arabic means كْسْكْسُو دْيالْ الدّْرَ).

The old, traditional process involves making couscous from scratch, a process that I learnt from my mother and grand mother, who used to prepare couscous dish from scratch every Friday.  I was very curious to observe them while they were busy making couscous dish, which should be ready by one O'Clock in the afternoon (After "Salat Al Jomo3a" =صلاة الجُمُعَة ) and I really admired their "techniques work", their passion for making almost any dish from scratch, I also admired that special magic bond between them : Mother and Daughter, and their deep knowledge of the secrets of cuisines.

I have to say that when necessary and when I have some extra time, I feel more than happy to follow the long, traditional and complicated process and make couscous and almost everything from scratch.  However, if I don't have time , I simply try a shortcut but I will still work hard to get the maximum taste return for less effort!  If you have ever the pleasure to taste one of those traditional home-made Moroccan couscous dish, (Especially the ones served in the South of Morocco-Imazighn of the South, known as Swassa), you will then, understand why I am willing to spend one (1) hour making couscous from scratch and you will also understand, no matter how busy I am, reaching for those instant-couscous on a shop shelf  is absolutely unthinkable and inexcusable for me.

Those who does not like to spend more than 15 minutes in the kitchen to make a decent meal, I'm afraid this recipe is not for them.  I don't use instant couscous and never boil my grains in microwave. Couscous is different from rice, and the "proper" way to cook it is by steaming it and not boiling it, as it is the case with instant stuff.   When steamed, the couscous grains gets infused with the flavours from the meat, vegetables and spicy broth, beautifully flavoured and scented.  Nothing like home-made couscous!

Scratch Process to make couscous involves the use of hard wheat coarse and medium semolina which are sprayed with some salted cold water, then sprinkled with some hard wheat fine semolina (or white flour), then rubbed and rolled with the hands to form those little grains of couscous.  The couscous grains are then strained by "Ghorbal or Chtato" to separate the fine grains from the ones that are still clumped and need more rolling and rubbing before being passed through Ghorbal once again.

Ingredients for steaming the Couscouss/ Ingrédient pour cuire le Couscouss à la vapeur

 Grand Mum's Kasksou or Couscous 
How to make Couscous from Scratch 
Homemade Couscous

  Façon grand-mère de préparer les grains de couscouss à partir de la semoule  épaisse et moyenne
 Couscouss fait à l'ancienne:

-300 gr coarse or extra-coarse semolina  / 300 gr de semoule épaisse ou extra épaisse
-200 gr medium semolina / 200 gr de semoule moyenne
-About 4 tablespoons of fine semolina / Environ 4 c à soupe de semoule fine
-About 12 tablespoons of salted cold water / Environ 12 c à soupe d'eau froide salée

Method / Préparation:

1.Spread the coarse and medium semolina on a tback or kassriya or a large round tray. Pour 3 or 4 tablespoons of salted cold water over the semolina and start to rotate the palm and fingers of both hands in wide concentric circle, rotating the same direction. / Mettre la semoule épaisse et moyenne dans un tbeck ou kassriya ou un récipient rond et large à fond plat, puis arroser les semoules de 3 ou 4 c à soupe d'eau froide salée et avec la paume des deux mains, rouler les semoules en passant et repassant les mains sur les grains en un mouvement circulaire régulier dans le même sens.
2.After six (6) or seven (7) rotations, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of fine semolina, while continuing to rotate. Once the fine semolina has been absorbed, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of salted cold water, rotating the same direction.  Now you can see some tiny spheres are being created. / Après six (6) ou sept (7) rotations, saupoudrer de 2 c à soupe de semoule fine et rouler encore avec les mains en répétant la même opération mentionnée ci-haut, puis ajouter 3 ou 4 c à soupe d'eau froide salée en continuant toujours à rouler. Vous allez remarquer que des grains de couscous commencent à se former.

3.Once again sprinkle 2 tablespoons of fine semolina, while continuing to rotate. Once  the fine semolina has been absorbed, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of salted cold water, rotating the same direction. Always work in a circular rotating motion. Now the grains has been separated and you can see spherical granules obtained by agglomeration of hard wheat semolina. The semolina has now turned into pellets, the size of peppercorns and this is what we call COUSCOUS / De nouveau, saupoudrer de 2 c à soupe de semoule fine et rouler encore avec les mains en répétant la même opération mentionnée ci-haut. Rouler toujours en mouvement circulaire régulier dans le même sens.  Puis ajouter 3 ou 4 c à soupe d'eau froide salée en continuant toujours à rouler le tout. Vous allez remarquer maintenant que les grains sont bien séparés et qu'ils s'agglomèrent.  Ces grains forment ce qu'on appelle COUSCOUSS.
4.Since those tiny couscous grains are more or less the same size, you may need to standardize their size. Transfer couscous in ghorbal or a finer flat sieve, then shake the couscous through, breaking apart any pellets with your hand. Sprinkle with a pinch of fine semolina while breaking the pellets. / Placer le couscouss dans un ghorbal ou un tamis pour les trier selon leur grosseur.  En le tamisant, presser bien le couscouss avec vos mains, en le saupoudrant d'une pincée de semoule fine pour écraser les grumeaux qui pourrait se cacher entre les grains.

5.Arrange the couscous on a clean kitchen towel. Cook the couscous right away or let it dry, then store in an airtight container indefinitely.  Make sure that couscous is really DRY before you store it. / Sur un linge propre, déposer les grains de couscouss.  Vous pouvez cuire le couscouss aussitôt ou le mettre à sécher, puis le conserver BIEN SEC dans des bocaux bien fermés.

How to steam couscous / Comment cuire le couscouss à la vapeur!

For steaming the Couscouss or Kasskssou  you need a large Couscoussier (as we call it in French) and which is a Couscous Pot called "Barma-Kasskass" in Moroccan language.  The cousscoussier is a traditional utensil, very popular in North Africa, used in the steaming and cooking of Couscouss, which is steamed in the top part "Kaskas"  =  Strainer or Steamer, which obviously has small holes in its base, and as for the meat, sauce and vegetables, they are cooked separately  in "Barma", which is a large base or the bottom container. Then there is the cover at the top of the steamer.

In fact, Couscoussier is perfect for not only couscouss, but rice, vermicelle etc......  However, if you don't have couscoussier, you may use simply any sort of pots with a strainer (just, make sure the holes in the strainer are small), then a cover.

Traditionally in Morocco, to steam either couscouss, rice, vermicelle etc.... this usually take 3 times altogether, and this is what we call "Tafwira" in Moroccan language.

This is my Barma in my kitchen and I was ready to make some delicious couscous!

This is Meriya's Barma, my friend, very traditional and precious Barma since, unfortunately, it's not easy to find one like this nowadays!


-About 500 gr homemade couscous (see recipe above) or use dry couscous, but do not use instant couscous (You can buy dry couscous which is available in almost all supermarkets) / Environ 500 gr de couscous fait maison (voir la recette ci-haut ) ou utilisez le couscous préfabriqué.  N'utiliser pas du couscous instantané  (Vous pouvez acheter le couscous préfabriqué, bien disponible dans tous les grands centres et magasins)

N.B: If you use homemade couscous, no need to add any water or oil before the first Tafwira, go to step 5, and follow the recipe. However, between Tafwiras, you need to add some water and oil as indicated in the recipe.  You still need to cook the couscous 3 times. / Si vous utilisez le couscous fait maison, pas besoin d'ajouter de l'eau au début, suivez la recette à partir de l'étape 5.  Vous devez ajouter un peu d'eau et de l'huile entre chaque Tafwira comme indiqué sur la recette et il faut le cuire 3 fois.

-2 tablespoons argan or sunflower oil / 2 c à soupe de l'huile d'argane ou de tournesol

-1 tablespoon Oudi or butter / 1 c à soupe d'oudi ou du beurre

-About 100 ml warm water, and add some salt to taste then mix well / Environ 100 ml d'eau tiède, puis ajouter un peu de sel à votre goût et bien mélanger

-About 150 ml warm water / Environ 150 ml d'eau tiède

Method how to steam couscous / Cuisson du couscouss à la vapeur!

Steaming couscous / Cuisson du couscouss à la vapeur!

1.Empty couscous into a 9assriya or a large shallow bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of argan or vegetable oil.  Use your hands to rub and stir couscous to evenly distribute the oil into it.

2.Add gradually 100 ml of warm water and use your hands to toss and rub the couscous between your palms, separating the grains and distributing the water. Set aside for about 5 minutes, stirring the couscous frequently with your finger, this will allow it to absorb any last traces of water. 
3.Then, once the water (if you are cooking Couscous-Seffa) or the meat and vegetable broth (if you are cooking the traditional Moroccan dish) is coming to a boil, add ONLY 1/2 (HALF) of couscous to the Kasskass (Strainer or Steamer), then place it into the top of Barma (the pot). The water or the sauce should not actually be touching the strainer. Once you see steam rising from Kasskass , add the remainder of couscous.

4-Place the pot lid on top of Kasskass (Strainer or Steamer ) to keep as much of the steam and moisture inside as possible. Allow the couscous to cook for about 20 minutes. This is what we call the first Tafwira.
If you notice that the steam starts to escape from the joint where Kasskass (Strainer or Steamer) and Barma (large base or the bottom container) meet (See pictures below).
Then you might need to seal the joint by placing a long piece of kitchen plastic film around the joint (See picture below).

This is an old barma (Couscoussier ) I have and I need to seal the joint whenever I steam cousoucous or rice or others.
However, if your couscoussier is of a high quality, you don't really need to seal the joints.

This is my Barma and it's perfect for steaming couscous, rice, vegetables etc... without sealing the joints! I like it!
5-Once the couscous has completed its first Tafwira, pour it on a 9assriya and add 1 tablespoon of argan oil and 100 ml of warm water, mixed with some salt. Use your hands to work the grains by separating and moistening them evenly. If you feel the couscous is too hot to touch, use a fork to break it apart. Break any lumps or balls or clumps you might see. Set aside for about 5 minutes, stirring the couscous frequently with your fingers, this will allow it to absorb any last traces of water.
6. At this stage, you might want to add more water to your sauce, or more vegetables etc.., then once the broth is coming to a boil, add ONLY 1/2 (HALF) of semolina to Kasskass, then place it into the top of Barma. The water or the sauce should not actually be touching the strainer. Once you see steam rising from kaskass, add the remainder of couscous.

7-Place the pot lid on top of Kaskas  to keep as much of the steam and moisture inside as possible. Allow the semolina to cook for about 20 minutes. This is what we call the second Tafwira.

8-Once the couscous has completed its second Tafwira, pour it on a 9assriya and add about 50 ml of warm water. Use your hands to work the grains by separating and moistening them evenly. If you feel the semolina is too hot to work with, use a fork to break it apart. Break any lumps or balls or clumps you might see. Set aside for about 5 minutes, stirring the semolina frequently with your fingers, this will allow it to absorb any last traces of water.
9.At this stage, you might add some water to the broth if you feel it is too thick and evaporated or you might want to check the seasoning etc..., then once the broth is coming to a boil, add ONLY 1/2 (HALF) of the couscous to Kasskass, then place it into the top of Barma. Once you see steam rising from kasskass, add the remainder of couscous.

N.B. Ensure you do not overcook the vegetables.  Between each Tafwira, you may have to remove some vegetables or even the meat if you feel they are well cooked .  Place them in a separate plate and cover them.

10-Place the pot lid on top of Kasskass and allow the couscous to cook for about 20 minutes. This is what we call the third and last Tafwira.

11. Now both Kasksou and the meat/vegetables broth are ready to serve.  Transfer Kasksou to the 9assriya or a large bowl, and fold Oudi into it, then rub Kasksou between the palms of your hands until Oudi is melted which will give a glistening color, and superb texture to the steamed Kasksou.

N.B.  Some Moroccan cooks, especially Moroccan Arabs, add Smen or Sman L'har (L'7ar) instead of Oudi or butter, whereas Moroccan Amazighs prefer to add Oudi or Argan oil or simply butter.

As you can see on the picture below, I added some Oudi to the cooked couscous!

To serve Kasksou / Pour servir Kasskssou:

In Morocco, steamed couscous is served with a couscous broth, made with either lamb or chicken or beef, all sort of vegetables and spices.   The stew is cooked in the bottom pot while the couscous is steamed one, two, and three Tafwiras over broth in the top part.  / Au Maroc, le couscouss est servi avec une sauce qui l'accompagne et qui est faite soit à base d'agneau, poulet ou boeuf  avec toutes sortes de légumes et épices, cuite séparément dans Barma (Marmite).

N.B. On utilise une seule sorte de viande, qui est soit le poulet ou bien l'agneau ou bien le boeuf, MAIS JAMAIS un mélange de 2 ou 3 sortes de viandes et parfois même des saucisses, le tout cuit ensemble avec des légumes et épices, comme il est le cas dans certaines recettes méditerranéennes.

A part la viande, le poisson et les fruit de mers sont aussi utilisés comme sauce de base, avec tomates et autres épices et qui accompagne Kasskssou.  Kasskssou Poisson est servi uniquement avec Baddaz ou Abaddas qui est un Kasskssou fait à base de farine de maïs, et qui est bien populaire chez les Marocains-Amazigh du Sud (Swassa)! Un vrai régal ce Baddaz!

N.B. In Morocco, the couscous can be served in two (2) different ways:

I-Traditionally, couscous is served with meats and vegetables broth (sort of stew or gravy) and it is served as a main course.  In this case, the couscous will be steamed in the top part called "Kasskass"  which means "Strainer or Steamer", while the meat and vegetables broth will be cooked separately  in "Barma", which is a large base or the bottom container of the couscoussier. Both of them will be cooked at the same time in the same utensil, but separately .  Couscous will be steamed in kasskass while the broth will be cooked in Barma.

II-Or couscous can be served as a dessert, topped with icing sugar, toasted almonds, raisins, or other types of nuts, cinnamon powder, or syrup, or amlou, fruits or other sweet sauces etc... This dish is called Couscous-Seffa.  To make couscous seffa, a flavored water (orange, lemon, cinnamon etc...) is used to steam couscous.  There are different types of Seffa: Rice-Seffa, Broken Vermicelli-Seffa, Couscous-Seffa etc.....).

The traditional way how couscous dish is served in MoroccoMound the steamed Kasksou attractively in a large shallow platter, arrange the meat and vegetables on top and add two to three ladlefuls of broth. Let the Kasksou sit about 5 minutes to absorb some broth before eating.  Ladle out remainder of the warm broth into small, individual bowls to serve. Enjoy!

Voici la façon traditionnelle de servir le plat de Kaskssou au Maroc:

Dresser Kaskssou en dôme dans un grand plat creux, puis disposer la viande et les légumes par-dessus, arrosez de sauce (2 ou 3 louches de sauces).  Laisser reposer environ 5 minutes avant de servir.  Versez le reste du bouillon dans des saucières individuelles et servir avec Kaskssou .  Bssa7a w ra7a!

Thanks for stopping by my site! 


Great tips and recipes! thanks for sharing.


Anonymous said…
This is a really amazing recipe full with tips !
I love the morrocan cuisine :)

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