Moroccan couscous with walnut and aubergines

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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.

My additions

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.

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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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  1. 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.

  2. Transfer to a strainer and set aside.

Make the meat stew- marqa

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  1. Mix water and salt and set aside.

  2. In a deep bowl or dish, drizzle the oil over couscous and rub the grains, ensure they are fully coated.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. At the end of this process, the couscous grain should have become soft to the touch and tender to the bite.

  8. 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

  1. Spread the couscous in a serving dish. We like to form a sort of well in the middle.

  2. 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.

  3. Place the meat in the center of the well and lay half of the aubergines (cut in length) all around. 

  4. 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. 

  5. Serve hot or warm.


Moroccan slow-cooked meat with cumin, over a bed of rice.

Moroccan slow-cooked meat with cumin -L’ham mkoumen

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L’ham mkoumen is one of the simplest and tastiest recipes I’ve recently discovered and it comes straight from the Marrakech culinary repertoire.

What’s in the name?

Mkoumen means “with cumin” and l’ham refers to meat which as to be falling off the bone with hardly any sauce. It’s so simple but it surely is incredibly addictive. My family loved it.

Moroccan slow-cooked meat with cumin, over a bed of rice.

Moroccan slow-cooked meat. Credit @Nada Kiffa

It’s somewhere between Tangia (iconic bachlor’s dish from Taroundant, Marrakech but also other cities) and M’quila (a fast option to replace khlii). Add a whole preserved lemon in wedges and you have a version of tangia.

I cooked my L’ham mkoumen in a dutch oven. I started it over a cooker for 15 min and placed it for 2 hours in the oven. It was so delicious!

Because the dish is all about meat, it’s a standard in Morocco to serve such things with salads on the side to make up for a complete meal.

No sauce please

Lham mkoumen is served almost as a confit of meat, dry with hardly any sauce, hence the little amount of water added to it. It should be slow-cooked in a closed tagine or in a heavy pot that can go to the oven.

In the pictures below, you will see some preserved lemon on top of the meat. That’s because I couldn’t resist adding half preserved lemon with the pulp, it really tasted like tangia! Succulent!

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Ingredients
Serves 4 
Prep: 10 min – cooking: 2 hours

  • 1 Kg of meat on the bone (osso bucco cuts will be perfect or leg of lamb in chuncks)
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of salt (smen being already salted)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground coriander seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of smen (Moroccan clarified and preserved butter)
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil
  • 200 ml of water
A bit of meat, a bit of garlic, a bit of rice with that tiny bit of thick
reduced sauce. Heaven!

 

Preparation
 
Rub the meat with ground cumin, ground coriander and smen. Leave for an 1 hour and preferably overnight.
In a dutch oven or a heavy clay pot, add the other ingredients. Start the cooking on medium heat  over a cooker for 10 minutes. Transfer to the oven for about 2 hours at 200 degrees C for 10 min then bring it down to 170 degrees C for the rest of the cooking. At 90 min, check the tenderness of the meat and the amount of liquid left in the pot.
Serve with steamed rice or hot bread and a salad on the side.
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Moroccan fresh broad bean (fava bean) and artichokes tagine

Broad beans are one of the most favourite vegetables in Morocco, especially when in season and young.

In Morocco, broad beans get picked from the fields, in a matter of a day or two at max, they would have been distributed and sold, maybe already eaten.

Moroccan fresh broad beans stew with artichokes

By sniffing freshly picked broad beans,  you could smell the green jnan or field they just came from. They go in anything such as salads and starters (here, there), soups, stews, tagines, couscous.

We always give a slit to the fresh broad beans (as seen in the picture) before
cooking it so it cooks through in a short time

I was not particularly lucky in finding good fresh broad beans in the hectic London and the ones I found come either frozen or in the vegetable section of supermarket, but then no taste comes out of that. That is to say that I’m so jealous of you! Yes you who can bite into a freshly picked broad bean wherever you are!.

When the broad beans are freshly picked, we can keep some of their
skin on and cook it as well.

If you can get hold of good broad beans in season, peel the outer skin, give a slit or prick them with a knife and do not forget to remove that little hat or nail each broad bean has on top. Last thing to do is to parboil them in salty and lemony water and freeze your bounty (after draining and cooling) for the rest of the year!

 

I tried to grow them in my balcony, I think I didn’t get the right variety! I know that now because I’ve read a bit about it. However, it still tasted better than what I got from the supermarket.

Fes, where my family comes from, is where you find some of the best broad beans as they come from the fields around the city and even the Jnans (patches of green fields) within it. So they get cooked in “all sauces” and sometimes they are combined with other seasonal vegetables such as cardoons, globe or wild artichokes (the other vegetable that’s ridiculously cheap back in Morocco)..

Moroccan fresh broad bean (or fava beans) stew can also be cooked in a tagine. It follows the M’qalli spicing logic.

This vegetable is better paired with red meat but you can make it vegetarian.

Ingredients
Serves 6 to 8
Prep: 20 min – Cooking: 90 to 120 min

  • 1 kg of lamb shanks or beef cuts (shoulder, neck), bones in
  • 2 kgs of fresh or frozen broad beans (you may keep 1/4 of beans with the outer skin if they’ve been freshly picked)
  • 6  artichokes (optional)
  • 1 medium-size yellow or white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
  • 1 small bouquet of coriander
  • 3 tbsps of olive  and vegetable oil mix
  • 1 tbsp of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of white and black ground pepper
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • A pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of salt or to taste

Garnishing

  • Purple or green olives
  • Preserved lemon

 

You could reduce the marka (broth, sauce) or keep some to
dip your Moroccan bread in.

Preparation

If you are going to add artichokes to this tagine, peel them and parboil them in boiled salty and lemony water for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

It’s important to scrub the heads of artichoke with lemon and place them in a
lemony water before parboiling them, to avoid darkening effect

Place a deep heavy-bottomed cooking pot on medium heat with about 10 ml of water.

In a separate bowl, add a few spoons of water, mix in all the spices to form a loose paste. Place in the cuts of meats which you should flip so maximum surface is in contact with spices.

Transfer the meat to the pot and add the onion, garlic, and water just to cover the pieces of meat. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the oil and 3 times the level of meat in water. Cover the pot and let simmer over medium heat. During the cooking process, check the level of water which should cover the meat until it becomes tender.

Add the broad beans with the bouquet of coriander and make sure there is enough sauce to cover them (add just enough water if you have to). Cook for another 20 minutes (frozen beans take less).

Add the artichokes on top and carry on cooking for another 10 min or until the beans are tender from the inside (fish out one and pinch it). The sauce/broth (marka) should also be fairly reduced by now.

Add a few olives to the sauce just 5 minutes before you knock off the heat.

Scoop some marka and pour it in the middle of the serving dish. Place the pieces of meat, top with the coriander bouquet, broad beans and more marka.

Garnish with olives and slices or preserved lemon. Serve hot with a good bread to soak up the sauce.