By Cat, Nov 2014 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Couscous is a type of fine-grained pasta, typically made from semolina flour (wheat), and is common in Moroccan cuisine. Orzo, from Greece, is similar but not quite as fine-grained.
Originally, freshly made couscous (from semolina and water, then dried) was steamed in a pot set above a stew or tagine while it is simmering. The lid of the pot has small holes around the edges to allow steam to escape. But now you can buy pre-steamed and dried couscous that takes only a few minutes of steaming.
If you need to avoid gluten, sprouted & steamed quinoa is a reasonable substitute (see Saffron-Raisin Quinoa).
Preparing Pre-steamed (Instant) Couscous
These instructions are for couscous that has been pre-steamed, then dried, before packaging. The following is from CookThink (1). Middle Eastern Food, About (2) also provides instructions, but cites more water than is needed.
- Start with 1 1/2 cups filtered water for each cup of dried couscous;
- Bring the water to a boil, reduce to simmer and add the couscous.*
- Simmer 10 – 15 minutes with the lid on the pot.
- Drain any water not absorbed and fluff the couscous well, with a fork.
* Saffron Couscous, or Saffron and Dried Fruit Couscous variation
- For saffron couscous, add 1/2 tsp saffron with the couscous to the simmering water. Or see Fine Cooking recipe for saffron couscous (4).
- Dried fruits such as raisins can also be steamed with the couscous; use 1 – 1 1/2 Tbsp per serving.
- CookThink recipe for couscous: cookthink.com/reference/170/A_really_simple_way_to_make_couscous)
- Middle Eastern Food (About) recipe for couscous (mideastfood.about.com/od/couscousrecipes/r/basiccouscous.htm)