Of course, semolina is the most commonly used grain to make couscous, but many Moroccan families rotate other grains such as whole wheat, millet, and barley into their couscous dishes. Although the grains all receive similar treatment in terms of cooking and serving, there are slight variations in terms of how much water they absorb and how many times they may need to be steamed in order to become tender.
Here we're focusing on the method used to steam barley grits (belboula). If you're already familiar with how to steam semolina couscous, you'll find it to be much of the same–the barley will be steamed several times in a couscoussier and served as a bed for a savory stew.
Note that the barley couscous will feel somewhat heavier and denser than semolina couscous.
Time Required: Two hours
- Choose a recipe and prep the ingredients. Barley couscous is particularly delicious with hearty meat and vegetable combos such as couscous with seven vegetables or Couscous with Carrots, Pumpkin, and Chickpeas.
Plan to cook the meat and vegetables concurrent with the steaming of your barley. Use an equal weight of barley couscous (large barley grits) for the amount of couscous called for in your recipe.
- Familiarize yourself with the method used to steam couscous in a couscoussier. You'll be doing the same with the barley.
Note, however, that barley will need to absorb more water than semolina couscous during the steaming. You'll be mixing in approximately two liters of water per kilogram of barley during the steaming. Adjust these measures for your recipe accordingly.
First Steaming of Barley Couscous
- In a or very large bowl, mix 1 kg dry barley couscous with 1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil, using your hands to toss the barley and evenly distribute the oil.
Next, mix in two cups of water, tossing the barley with your hands and rubbing out any balls that clump together. Leave the barley to rest and absorb the water for ten minutes, then transfer it to the steamer basket, place atop the couscoussier, and seal the joint. Allow the barley to steam for about 15 minutes, timing from when the steam rises from the couscous.
Second Steaming of the Barley Couscous
- Turn the steamed barley back into the bowl, and break it apart. Mix in another two cups of water and two teaspoons of salt, again tossing the couscous with your hands and rubbing out any balls that form. Leave the barley to rest and absorb the water for ten minutes, then place back into the steamer. Steam for a second time for about 15 minutes, timing from when the steam rises from the couscous.
Third Steaming of the Barley Couscous
- After the second steaming has completed, turn the barley back into the bowl and break it apart. Mix in two cups of water and leave the couscous to rest and absorb the water for ten minutes.
After the barley has dried a bit, mix in another two cups of water. Again, leave the barley to rest a few minutes so that it has time to absorb the water. At this point, the barley should test al dente and feel somewhat heavy.
Steam the barley for the third time, timing the steaming to coincide with when your meat and vegetables will be ready to serve.
Serving Barley Couscous
- Turn out the steamed barley couscous and toss in 2 tablespoons of butter (use some smen if you prefer) and a couple of ladles of broth. Arrange the couscous into a mound in the gsaa or on a large platter. Arrange the meat in the center and the vegetables on top and all around. Pour more broth over all and serve immediately.
What You Need
- Barley couscous or large barley grits
- Ingredients for recipe of your choice