Chef Wendy

10 Top Tips for Perfect Couscous

Do you know how to prepare couscous? This starch is an excellent choice for family dinners because it’s so quick and easy. 

Couscous is popular in many parts of North Africa, but particularly in Morocco and Tunisia, where it is a beloved staple food, and often used as an accompaniment to tagines and similar spicy stews.  

You can choose convenient couscous as a great, quick alternative to pap, rice or potatoes. Because it’s so versatile, you can also use it create flavour-packed tummy-filling salads!  Read on for our top tips and some great recipe suggestions.

1. What is couscous? 

Made from durum wheat semolina, couscous is a fairly fine grain with a pale golden colour. It has a mild, neutral flavour that pairs very well with a variety of flavoursome ingredients. A whole-wheat version of couscous is now also readily available. 

2. Couscous loves exotic flavours, textures and colours. 

The way to jazz up couscous is to combine it with meat, fresh herbs, aromatic spices, bright vegetables and sweet dried fruits. 

3. Couscous can be prepared in minutes. 

In decades gone past, couscous sold in supermarkets needed to be carefully steamed, and it required painstaking attention. However, most brands of couscous sold in South African supermarkets these days are of the ‘instant’ variety, and they take just minutes to prepare.  All you need is a big bowl and some boiling water or stock!

4. Where do you find it?

You will find boxes of ‘instant’ couscous in the pasta aisle of your local supermarket. If you can’t find it, ask the manager!

5. How to prepare couscous.  

It couldn’t be easier – all you need do is follow Chef Wendy’s foolproof method! To serve 4 people: 

• Place 1½ cups (375 ml) dry couscous in a large bowl, and drizzle over 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of sunflower or olive oil.
• Use a fork to stir the oil through the couscous so the grains are well coated. (This stops the granules from sticking together.)
• Place the contents of a Knorr Chicken or Vegetable Stock Pot into a separate measuring jug, together with 1½ cups (375 ml) boiling water. Stir until dissolved.
• Pour the hot stock over the couscous, stir well, then cover immediately with clingfilm and allow to steam for 5 minutes.
• Remove the clingfilm and lightly stir the couscous - using a flicking motion and the tip of a fork -  to separate and fluff up the grains. 
• If there is any liquid left at the bottom of the bowl, drain the couscous in a large sieve and set aside for 2 minutes (if you’re serving it hot) or 10 minutes (if you’re making a salad).  

6. Add a dressing to the couscous.  

If you’re serving your couscous plain and piping hot with a tagine or stew, season it to taste with salt and pepper, stir in a little olive oil or margarine, and serve immediately. If you’re making a warm or cold salad, it’s a good idea to add the dressing ingredients to the couscous while it’s still warm, so the grains can absorb the flavours. 

To make a quick dressing, whisk together three parts of good fruity olive oil to one part lemon juice, and add some interesting flavours (see below). Or simply drizzle with your favourite Knorr salad dressing!   

7. Interesting flavours & textures to add to couscous:  

Here’s a list of aromatic and zesty ingredients that go beautifully with couscous. Use just a few of these, or mix and match as you please!

• A few pinches of North African spices: cumin, coriander, powdered ginger, cinnamon, and dried mint, plus Spanish flavours such as sweet and smoked paprika.
• Finely chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, coriander [dhania/cilantro], mint, chives or rocket. 
• Sweet dried fruity ingredients such as chopped sultanas, raisins, dates or dried apricots/peaches.  
• Add a sweet fresh pop to your couscous with a scattering of fresh pomegranate seeds, or some chopped fresh citrus segments. 
• Toasted nuts and seeds. These add wonderful crunch and flavour to couscous. You can toast nuts and seeds by tossing them in a dry frying pan over a moderate heat until they’re just golden – but watch them like a hawk as they burn fast. Try slivered or flaked almonds, macadamia nuts, or pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds. 
• Sour or zesty things. Pep up your couscous with ingredients that add a pleasantly sharp note, such as finely grated lemon, orange or naartjie peel, chopped preserved lemons, a splash of good vinegar, a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and so on.  

8. Make a complete meal by adding veggies and protein.

• Add roasted veggies to your couscous to make a lovely vegetarian meal. Here’s a recipe suggestion: Roasted Vegetables with Couscous & Feta
• Add cooked cubes or strips of tender beef, lamb or chicken. Here are two great recipes ideas: Moroccan Chicken Couscous and Couscous with Chicken and Apricots

9.  Serve your couscous on the side! 

If you’re making your couscous to serve alongside a rich spicy tagine or stew, we can recommend these recipes from our whatsfordinner website: 

10. Use couscous as a stuffing: 

You can also use couscous as a stuffing ingredient for roast meat. Try Chef Wendy’s delicious Roast Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Herbed Couscous