Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Aude to Africa - Couscous Kabyle

Africa, africa, there are so many things I love about Africa. When it comes to cuisine, I either love it or hate it. There are very few dishes I've tried that I can roll in my mouth and say, that's so, so. Nope. It's either absolutely to die for, or please don't ask me to eat that again. So when I was asked to prepare an exotic 100% African meal I knew just what I was going to make, and it wasn't going to be fufu.

I had a friend come over to cook with me and she brought a big giant pot and a big giant bowl, because we would be cooking for a crowd. She also brought a traditional Couscous grain that she brought back with her from Algeria. It tasted better than any Couscous grain I've ever bought in the stores!

We steamed the Couscous the traditionnel way. It took all day! Steam, fluff, steam, fluff, steam. Then we had to roll each handful between our hands and let the grains fall individually into the bowl and the stuff still wanted to stick together when we were trying to serve it.

The stew was perfectly seasoned, due entirely to the fact that my friend was helping me. I know this because I've made the dish several times since and the first time it was bland and didn't have flavor. I've realized that some things you just can't follow the recipe on, or my spices aren't as strong as theirs because I had to add four times what the original recipe calls for! The second time I tried to make it, it tasted like tomato soup, so I've adjusted that over time as well.

The night in question there would be too many guests in my house, and no plausible way to sit 30 of us around my dinning room table, so we pushed all of the dinning room furniture into the living room and we laid out african print blankets and picnic-ed indoors the African way.

We lounged and talked and heard stories about Africa late into the night. It was an absolute culinary masterpiece and a truly joyous occasion to be shared by all.

One traditional recipe fed everybody with plenty to spare, but the recipe I'll share with you is designed for four people. Four big hungry people. I figure that's more practical and if you do decide to feed the whole village you can always multiply.

Couscous Kabyle


4 tbsp (4 càs) oil
2 cups (1/2 k) couscous
2 thighs and drumsticks
2 onions thin wedges
2 tomatoes
2 potatoes quartered
2 turnips quartered
2 carrots cut like carrot sticks
1 pinch of black pepper
1 tbsp (càs) ras-el-hanout
4 spicy dried red peppers
1 sm zucchini
1 1/2 cup (425g) rehydrated chick-peas
(If you're using dried chick peas let them rehydrate in a bowl of water over night)


Prepare the couscous according to the package directions. If you're using dried rolled couscous you'll have to rince it in cold water then strain it and allow it to puff 30 min.

Cut the thighs at the joint. Heat the oil in a large heavy pot. At medium-high heat, brown the chicken with the skins bones and all in the oil until crispy and golden. Add one chopped onion. Brown. Then add 4 cups water.

Run the tomatoes through a vegetable mill. Add the other onion, the tomatoes, potatoes, turnips, and carrots. And let it stew for two hours.

A half hour before serving crush the red peppers with a mortar and pestle and add the spices, zucchini, and chick-peas to the stew. Allow the flavors to marinate 30 min. and serve over the couscous.

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