Moroccan Couscous With Meat and Seven Vegetables

A bowl of couscous
Giada Canu / Stocksy United
Ratings (48)
  • Total: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs
  • Yield: Generously serves 6 adults
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
697 Calories
25g Fat
105g Carbs
20g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: Generously serves 6 adults
Amount per serving
Calories 697
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 32%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 3670mg 160%
Total Carbohydrate 105g 38%
Dietary Fiber 22g 79%
Protein 20g
Calcium 261mg 20%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This outstanding recipe for classic Casablanca-style couscous features steamed couscous piled high with stewed meat and vegetables. (You can omit the meat for a vegetarian couscous.) Feel free to vary the vegetables to your family's preferences, but try to include a full variety to achieve an authentically flavored sauce. It's become increasingly popular in recent years to garnish this dish with a generous topping of tfaya, a caramelized onion and raisin mixture that can also adorn couscous all on its own.

If you've never used a couscoussier, a traditional steamer used to make couscous, it is not difficult to learn ​how to use. Just be prepared to steam the couscous three times, about 15 minutes each. If you choose to use chicken as the meat, an organic, free-range bird works best due to the long cooking time.

Ingredients

  • For the Meat:
  • 2 lbs. 3 oz./1 kg. lamb or beef on the bone (cut into large pieces), or 1 whole chicken
  • 1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
  • 3 tomatoes (peeled and coarsely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. turmeric, or 1/4 tsp. Moroccan yellow colorant
  • About 2 1/2 qt./2 1/2 l. water
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley and cilantro sprigs (tied into a bouquet)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • For the Couscous:
  • 2 lbs. 3 oz./1 kg. dry couscous (not instant)
  • 1/4 cup/60 ml. vegetable oil
  • Water
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • For the Vegetables:
  • 1/2 small cabbage (cut into 2 or 3 sections)
  • 3 to 4 turnips (peeled and halved)
  • 10 carrots (peeled and halved)
  • 1 to 2 tomatoes (peeled and quartered)
  • 1 to 2 small onions (whole or halved)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup fresh fava beans
  • Optional: 1 to 2 jalapeño or chili peppers
  • 1 small acorn squash (quartered), or a small section of pumpkin (cut into 3-inch pieces)
  • 4 to 5 small zucchini (ends removed and halved)
  • Optional: 2 to 3 small sweet potatoes (peeled and halved)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this Moroccan dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Meat

  1. Mix the meat, onion, tomatoes, oil, and spices in the bottom of a couscoussier. Cook uncovered over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until the meat is browned and the onions and tomatoes have formed a thick sauce.

  2. Add the water, the parsley/cilantro bouquet, and the chickpeas, if using. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer rapidly for 25 to 30 minutes. (If omitting both meat and chickpeas, simmer for just a few minutes.)

First Steaming of Couscous

  1. While the meat is cooking, get the couscous ready for its first steaming. Oil the steamer basket and set it aside. Empty the dry couscous into a very large bowl, and work in the vegetable oil with your hands, tossing the couscous and rubbing it between your palms. (This will help prevent the couscous grains from clumping together.)

  2. Work in 1 cup of water in the same manner, using your hands to evenly distribute the liquid into the couscous. Transfer the couscous to the oiled steamer basket.

  3. Add the cabbage to the meat mixture, and place the steamer basket on top (seal the joint if necessary). Once you see steam rising from the couscous, steam the couscous for 15 minutes.

  4. Pour the couscous back into the large bowl and break it apart.

  5. When the couscous has cooled enough to handle, gradually work in 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt with your hands. Again, toss the couscous and rub it between your palms to break up any balls or clumps. Transfer the couscous back into the steamer, taking care not to pack or compress the couscous.

Second Steaming of Couscous

  1. Add the turnips, carrots, tomatoes, onions, and fava beans (if using) to the pot. Place the steamer basket on top of the couscoussier (seal the joint if necessary), and steam the couscous a second time for 15 minutes, timing from when you see the steam rising from the couscous.

  2. Once the couscous has steamed for 15 to 20 minutes, turn it out into the large bowl again. Break it apart, and let cool a few minutes.

  3. If you're serving the couscous with jalapeño peppers, simmer the peppers, covered, in a half-ladle of broth and a little water, for about 40 minutes, or until the jalapeños are tender. (The peppers are typically placed on top of the couscous, and small pieces may be broken off as a condiment.)

Third Steaming of Couscous

  1. Gradually work 3 cups of water into the couscous with your hands, tossing it and rubbing the grains between your palms. Taste the couscous, and add a little salt if desired.

  2. Transfer about half of the couscous to the steamer basket. Again, try to handle the couscous lightly and avoid packing it into the steamer.

  3. Add the squash, zucchini, and sweet potatoes, if using, to the couscoussier, and place the steamer basket on top. (Again, seal the joint if necessary.)

  4. When you see the steam rise through the couscous, carefully add the remaining couscous to the steamer. Continue cooking, watching for the steam to rise from the couscous. Allow the couscous to steam for a full 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, all of the vegetables should be cooked. Test the vegetables to be sure, cooking longer if necessary. Taste the broth—it should be salty and peppery—and adjust the seasoning if desired.

Serving the Couscous and Vegetables

  1. Empty the couscous into the large bowl, and break it apart. Mix in the 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 ladles of broth.

  2. To serve the couscous, shape it into a mound with a well in the center. Put the meat into the well, and arrange the vegetables on top and all around. Distribute the broth evenly over the couscous and vegetables, reserving one or two bowlfuls to offer on the side for those who prefer more.

Tips

If you see steam escaping from between the basket and couscoussier, you'll need to seal the joint. You can do this in several ways: wrap and tie a long piece of damp cloth over the joint, tightly wrap a long piece of kitchen plastic film around the joint, or wrap and drape a long piece of kitchen plastic film onto the rim of the couscoussier, and then place the basket on top.