Moroccan Couscous with walnut and aubergines, couscous Jawzi – الكسكس الجوزي is an intriguingrecipe from Tujibi’s book which dates back from the 11th century.
Needless saying that I felt the urge to to bring it back onto the Moroccan table.
I added saffron threads to the sauce as it seemed right to do so. It came out perfect.
The recipe itself does not ask for many spices, barely pepper and ground coriander seeds for the sauce/marqa and cinnamon and gum mastic for the walnut paste.
I served this couscous jawzi warm for lunch and I kept some steamed couscous grains mixed with the fragrant paste for a light afternoon treat. As I sprinkled it with warm milk and topped it with some jewelled pomegranate seeds, it was a wonderful treat.
Aubergine and walnuts make a perfect marriage and we can see that in the Middle Eastern kitchen in the form of Makbous bidinjan (pickled stuffed mini aubergines with walnuts and chili).
A note about the couscous grain
Steaming couscous is the best method to handle these wonderful grains. I will never advocate for the 5 minutes re hydration method, even more when the couscous grain is fine.
I prefer to steam my couscous over the stew which will be accompanying it. This method allows you to have a well infused grain and it tastes much better. In this case, once the meat has cooked, we start the same process described below to cook the couscous.
Couscous with walnut and aubergine – Couscous jawzi
Couscous with walnut, couscous Jawzi – الكسكس الجوزي is a centuries old recipe that we hardly hear of. It can be found in Tujibi's book of recipes dating back from the 12th century. Its unusual combination is worth discovering. It's so easy to prepare and I'm sure it will be a crowd-pleaser.
Couscous broth -marqa-
- 500 gram onions (white or brown, finely chopped)
- 300 gram meat (calf, beef or lamb meat with bones, ideally from legs or shoulder and cut into slices 2 cm thick)
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds (ground)
- 1 tsp black pepper (or white, ground)
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 pinch saffron threads
Cooking the aubergines
- 2 aubergines (medium-size ((use a version with less seeds))
- 1 tsp salt
Preparing the couscous
- 150 gram couscous grains (fine or medium, I use the packed and pre-cooked Dari or Tria brand)
- 200 ml cold water (to moisten the grains in stages)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp oil (vegetable or olive oil to rub the grains)
- 100 gram walnut kernels
- 1 tsp cinnamon (ground)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- ¼ tsp gum mastic (or meska hourra)
Preparing the walnut paste
They are first boiled and peeled then pounded with their flavourings. The peeling of walnuts helps improving its taste as the bitter element is removed, you will find some sweetness to it.
Parboil the kernels of walnut. After the boiling point, leave them for 3 minutes then transfer to a strainer. It helps breaking them with your hands before peeling them. Pat dry once done.
Reduce the gum mastic to powder by mixing it with sugar and grounding it with a pestle and mortar and squashing it with the back of a glass.
Use a pestle and mortar or a food processor to mix the walnuts with the gum mastic mix and cinnamon. You should get a coarse paste.
Preparing the aubergines
Peel the aubergines and trip their "hat". They should be kept in one piece.Place them in a deep saucepan and cover with water. Add the salt and parboil for 20 minutes to get rid of their bitterness. Make sure you flip them over during this process.
Transfer to a strainer and set aside.
Make the meat stew- marqa
In the bottom of a couscoussier, add about 1/4 cup of water, all the spices and salt, meat, chopped onions, oil. Stir and place it over medium heat. Turn the meat around a couple of times before the liquid nearly evaporates. This allows the meat to absorb spices, we call this step shahhar the meat.
Add enough water to cover the cuts of meat and cover. Cook until the meat is nearly tender then add the aubergines to the sauce. Push them inside the sauce.
Correct the seasoning and top up with water if needed and remember that you need some broth to moisten the couscous grains before serving it.
You will need to keep about 500 ml of sauce in the end of the cooking process as we need it for the couscous and also to serve some on the side.Halfway of this cooking stage, start steaming the couscous.
Preparing the grains of couscous
Mix water and salt and set aside.
In a deep bowl or dish, drizzle the oil over couscous and rub the grains, ensure they are fully coated.
Sprinkle (do not pour) half the quantity of water progressively and while delicately rubbing the grains. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes as the grains will soak the liquid and form lumps.
Take handful after handful and rub your hands against each other in order to break the lumps. The couscous will fall through, scoop another handful and proceed to break more lumps. If you see smaller ones and delicately break them between your fingers. The grains should all be separated at the end of this process.
Fold the couscous in its original bowl or a large dish. Break the couscous lumps with a couple of forks when it's still piping hot, just run them in opposite directions to split the lumps. The brave can still dig in with their hands and do it or use thick latex gloves for the job.Spread the couscous evenly in the top level of a couscoussier and place it over its bottom part, filled with to 1/4 or 1/3 with boiling water. Count 15 minutes (medium grains might take up to 25 min) after you see the steam escaping through the couscous.
Sprinkle the remaining water and proceed as the first time (resting time, rubbing, etc). Spread the couscous again evenly on the top of the couscoussier and steam for the same amount of time.
At the end of this process, the couscous grain should have become soft to the touch and tender to the bite.
Transfer them to a large dish and mix them with the walnut paste, roll and break down the mix between the palms of your hands until you scatter all the paste in the couscous and it looks fairly blended in. Again, avoid lumps.
Serving Couscous Al Jawzi
Spread the couscous in a serving dish. We like to form a sort of well in the middle.
With a laddle full of sauce/broth/marka, go around and try to poor it all around so most of the couscous grains absorb some of it.
Place the meat in the center of the well and lay half of the aubergines (cut in length) all around.
Use a frying spatula to fish the bit of onions and scatter them on top. Add more broth all around without over-soaking the couscous. We tend to serve extra bowls of broth next to the main dish so people help themselves.
Serve hot or warm.