Today, in a moment of madness, I decided to give my pantry a 'spring clean'. This entailed climbing up on a step-ladder and pulling down pots and pans and things, sorting through them all and going through bags of beans and boxes of crackers to determine what would stay and what needed to be got rid of. I also decided to deploy my newly-acquired second-hand label maker and labelling my shelves as I reorganised things. In doing this I discovered a package of handmade couscous that my Algerian friend Miyyada had given me a couple of months ago. She'd brought several kilos of the stuff with her when she moved to the UK to study at Cambridge. It is remarkably fine-grained - finer than any couscous I've ever seen before.
As we had some beef in the fridge to cook tonight (the same cut as we roasted last weekend...) I thought it would be nice to cook the couscous with the beef for a dinner that was slightly out of the ordinary.
Google is my unofficial 'best friend' - always there when I need a recipe or instructions on how to do something I've never done before. And so it was. I found this recipe for 'Moroccan-Style Beef Couscous with Carrots' on MyRecipes.com and after reading it through, I decided to try it. I modified the recipe very little, as noted:
Moroccan-Style Braised Beef with Carrots and Couscous
Dried apricots and North African spices render a hearty stew. Use an immersion blender to thicken the braising mixture gravy--no need for a roux.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound lean beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups thinly sliced onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin (I might use a tad less, next time)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika (I used 1/2 tsp chilli/cayenne powder, 1 tsp paprika)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 (14-ounce) cans less-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup packed dried apricots (didn't have any so I substituted a handful of mixed dried fruit)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups diagonally sliced peeled carrot (about 4 - 5carrots)
2 tablespoons water (optional) (didn't need it)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I only had the curly kind... *sigh*)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/3 cup less-sodium beef broth
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup uncooked couscous
1/4 cup chopped green onions
Our home-made, fine-grained Algerian couscous required twice as much water as suggested so 1:1 couscous and water.
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
To prepare beef, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle beef with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add beef to pan, and cook 4 minutes or until beef is browned on all sides, turning occasionally. Transfer beef to a bowl; cover and keep warm.
Add 3 cups onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add 4 garlic cloves and next 4 ingredients (through ginger); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 2 cans broth; bring to a boil. Add apricots; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 30 minutes. Using an immersion blender in pan, puree onion mixture. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Return beef to onion mixture; cook over medium-low heat 1 hour or until beef is tender. Add carrot to pan; cover and cook 15 minutes or until carrot is tender, adding 2 tablespoons water, if desired, to loosen sauce. Season to taste (I needed to add quite a bit more salt for my taste...)
Stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley.
While beef cooks, prepare couscous. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add crushed garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric. Stir in 1/3 cup broth and 1/3 cup water; bring to a boil. Gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes; fluff with a fork. Stir in green onions.
Spoon couscous onto plates. Top evenly with the stew, and sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon parsley. This amount serves 4.
The resulting dish was delicious - full of exotic flavours and made just a bit spicy by the addition of chilli powder. Wow! And the couscous itself was sublime - very fine-grained and with a lovely, delicate flavour. For my part, the beef dish, although it required a bit of preparation before actually putting the dish together, the individual steps were very easy. Steve says that he had to add more liquid to the couscous than the recipe suggested - but I don't think the recipe was for hand-made Algerian couscous!
Be adventurous in your kitchen... tonight!