International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Couscous with kebabs

(North African steamed pasta grains)

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Couscous is a commonly served type of pasta in the region of Northwest Africa known as the Maghreb. In typical Maghreb cooking, couscous is cooks in the top part of a pot known as a couscousière. The bottom part holds a stew, or tagine, whose simmering vapors steam and flavor the couscous.

The method described here is the quick way to make couscous. It does not make as fluffy or fragrant a dish, but it is much easier and requires no special equipment.

Couscous looks like a small grain, but is actually a type of semolina pasta. Variations are found in Spain, Sicily, the Middle East and even Brazil. In one type — Israeli couscous — grains are about the size of a small pea.

Other names for couscous: keskesu, kuskus, mftoul, seksu, ta'aam, kusksi, kisksu, cuscusu. Couscous is considered the national dish of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

4 to 6 servings


  • Couscous -- 2 cups
  • Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Boiling water or stock -- 2 cups


  1. Mix the couscous and salt together in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water or stock over into the bowl all at once and stir in well.
  2. Cover the bowl with a tight-fitting lid or with plastic wrap and set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes to steam.
  3. Remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil if you like.
  4. Use couscous as a base for North African tagines and stews, or as an accompaniment to hot entrees or cold salads.


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