Semolina is the most commonly used grain to make couscous, but many Moroccan families use other grains such as whole wheat, millet, and barley in their preparations. Although the grains all receive similar treatment in terms of cooking and serving, there are slight variations in how much water they absorb and how many times they may need to be steamed in order to become tender or an al dente texture.
The cooking of barley grits (belboula) is similar to the steaming process of regular couscous, but in this case, there are three steaming stages in a couscoussier. Couscous is traditionally served with meat or vegetable stews, so plan ahead and make both recipes at the same time. Then you can serve a timely meal with both dishes freshly prepared. Barley couscous is particularly delicious with hearty meat-and-vegetable combos, like a classic dish of lamb and vegetables.
This recipe calls for 4 1/2 pounds of couscous, but you can simply cook as much barley as couscous is required for your stew recipe, scaling down the water amounts.
If you've never steamed couscous in a couscoussier, familiarize yourself with the method first, as you'll be doing the same with the barley.
- 4 1/2 pounds dry barley couscous
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 8 cups water (divided)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons butter (or smen)
- 1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
Gather the ingredients.
In a very large bowl, mix the dry barley couscous with the oil, using your hands to toss the barley and evenly distribute the oil.
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 10 minutes.
Transfer the barley 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.
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 10 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.
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 10 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 feel al dente and somewhat heavy.
Steam the barley for the third time, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Place the barley couscous in a big serving bowl and toss in the butter (or smen) and the broth. Mix well and serve (see tip below).
How to Properly Serve Couscous
- 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.