I know you have waited a long time for this moment. But finally, it has come! Today I will share with you my recipe for authentic vegan Moroccan-style couscous with vegetables.
COUSCOUS – A NATIONAL DISH OF DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
Couscous is the national dish of Morocco, well actually not only of Morocco, but also of other North African countries like Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. In every region, the dish is cooked slightly differently. The Tunisian couscous for example, is red and spicy. In Morocco, it is mild and prepared with fewer tomatoes or even without tomatoes. Basically, the couscous is steamed over a stew made of meat (chicken, mutton/lamb, or beef), spices, chickpeas, and whole or only roughly cut vegetables. The basic vegetables for Moroccan couscous are turnips, carrots, cabbage, pumpkin, and zucchinis. Depending on taste and season, you can also add fresh fava beans, potatoes, chilies, and sweet potatoes.
The most popular version of couscous is the one with the vegetables and this is also the one that is served in restaurants. But also within Morocco there are different couscous dishes known. One other couscous dish, for example, is couscous tfaya, which is couscous with chicken, chickpeas, and a mixture of raisins and caramelized onions (the so-called “tfaya”).
WHAT IS COUSCOUS?
But what is couscous actually? Couscous is made from crushed durum wheat semolina. It can be also made from other grains such as barley. Couscous is available in different calibers. The most common calibers are small and medium. For my dishes, I prefer medium, as it is less mushy when you drizzle the couscous with the sauce. Often, I use whole wheat couscous. It’s stronger in taste, more grainy, and healthier.
My recipe for vegetable couscous is completely vegan but it respects the authentic Moroccan taste. Besides the traditional vegetables, I add also some potatoes. To make the pumpkin more aromatic, I cook it with some sugar. The couscous is topped with tfaya, the mixture of caramelized onions and raisins.
COUSCOUS – THE PERFECT DISH TO CELEBRATE FOOD CULTURE
Couscous with vegetables is one of my favorite dishes. It’s also a great crowd-feeding dish and the perfect meal to celebrate food culture. It takes time to cook, but you don’t have much work with preparing the vegetables. In Morocco, couscous is traditionally eaten on Friday as it is the most important day of the week in the Islamic world, comparable to the Sunday in the West. Many restaurants offer couscous only on Friday and also in Moroccan canteens offer it every week. The best way to eat vegetable couscous is to sit around a big plate of this delicious dish with your family and friends, and to eat directly from the plate.
If you need a vegan inspiration for tajine, the other iconic dish of Moroccan cuisine, then try this recipe.
for the couscous:
- 500g couscous (medium caliber), I prefer whole-wheat couscous
- water to soak
- olive oil to drizzle (about 4 tablespoons)
for the vegetables:
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 onions
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 medium-size tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ginger powder
- salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
- 1 small cabbage or one piece of cabbage (400g)
- 6 thick carrots (400g)
- 3 turnips
- 2 potatoes
- 5 small zucchini
- 250g cooked chickpeas (dry soaked chickpeas cooked in a pressure cooker)
- 1 bunch of parsley
for the sweet pumpkin:
- 1 piece of pumpkin (500g)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- water to cook (about 500ml)
for the tfaya (caramelized onions with raisins):
- 2 onions
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 100g raisins
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- a pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
1. Put the couscous into a large and wide plate. Cover it with cold water, and immediately drain the water carefully. Then, let the wet couscous rest.
2. Meanwhile, chop two of the onions for the vegetables and the garlic cloves finely. Heat the olive oil for the vegetables in the bottom part of the couscousier (large pot with a steaming unit) and sauté the onions and the garlic until translucent.
3. While you fry the onions and the garlic, grate the tomatoes. Their skin will be removed automatically when you grate them. Then, add the grated tomatoes to the onion-garlic mixture and fry everything for a couple of minutes until dry.
4. Add about 1 liter of water to the mixture and blend it with a stick blender. This way you will get a smooth broth without chunks. Next, add the spices and bring the broth to boil. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
5. While the broth is being heated, peel the carrots, halve them lengthwise, and remove the core part carefully. Don’t injure yourself and don’t break the carrot! If the carrots are very long, halve them. Also, peel the turnips and cut them lengthwise into halves. Peel the third onion and leave it as it is. Then, prepare the cabbage by removing the outer leaves and cutting off the stalk. Afterward, halve the cabbage.
6. If your cabbage has thick hard leaves, cook it for about 30 minutes alone in the broth before adding the carrots, the onion, and the turnips. If your cabbage is, however, tender, put it together with the carrots, the onion, and the turnips into the broth.
7. Rub the soaked couscous between your hands until the grains are separated and it is nice and fluffy. Put the couscous into the steaming unit of the couscousier and place it on top of the pot with the vegetables. Cover the couscous with a lid and steam it until the lid is very hot (about 15 minutes).
8. While the couscous is steaming, peel the pumpkin and boil it in some water with 3 tablespoons of sugar until soft. You can dice the pumpkin roughly. I, however, prefer a large piece. Also, soak the raisins for the tfaya in some water. Then, peel the potatoes, half them lengthwise, and trim the ends of the zucchini.
9. Put the couscous back on the wide plate. Sprinkle it with a cup (about 250ml) of salted water and let it rest.
10. Meanwhile, peel the onions for the tfaya, half them, and slice them finely. In a small pot, heat the olive oil for the caramelized onions and sauté the sliced onions. Then, add the soaked raisins, cinnamon, turmeric, and salt. Pour some water over the onions, cover them with a lid, and let them cook until soft.
11. Add potatoes, zucchini, herbs, and chickpeas to the veggies in the pot. Then, pour some olive oil over the couscous and rub it with your hands to separate the grains. Then, put it back into the steamer, cover it with a lid, and place it again on top of the vegetables. Steam it once more until the lid is very hot.
12. During the second steaming, check the pumpkin and the onions. Don’t let them burn! When the pumpkin is cooked (prick it with a knife to test), turn off the heat. When the onions are soft, add 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cook them without a lid stirring them regularly until nicely caramelized. Then, turn off the heat.
13. My couscous was cooked after the second steaming. If your couscous is still not nice and soft, put it on the wide plate again, add more water (150-200ml). Let it rest for 5 minutes, rub it, put it back into the steamer, and steam it once more. The veggies for couscous are very soft and not al dente, so it’s no problem to cook them a little longer.
READY TO SERVE
14. For serving, put the couscous on a wide plate. Leave the center of the plate empty. Place carrots, turnips, zucchinis, and potatoes on the couscous. Put the cabbage, the cooked parsley, and the pumpkin into the center. Then, spread the chickpeas as evenly as possible over the dish. Pour some of the sauce (there should be at least 1 cup left) over the couscous. Finally, put the caramelized onions with raisins on top of the pumpkin. Enjoy the vegan couscous with your family and friends!