While I was on holiday, I found myself mounting an impassioned defense of couscous over (some of the numerous) glasses of wine we consumed. I was taught this particular method of cooking it by a lovely housemate during a particularly broke era of my time in Paris. This post is about quickly made couscous for one (I’ll be covering slightly fancier version soon) and it’s about as basic as it gets. For a poor 19 year old in Paris, who regularly finished work around 8:00pm, it was a godsend for a few different reasons.
First and foremost, it’s amazing inexpensive. I could buy 1kg for a euro, which gave me at least 10 generous servings. It’s also very well suited to quick dinners after a long day, the couscous itself takes about 10 minutes, and then I just stirred in whatever I happened to have in the fridge. Top with some Parmesan (yes, I prioritized buying Parmesan in my broke days) and it was perfect.
A common complaint about couscous is that it’s boring. This has a lot to do with the steaming process. If you steam it in plain water, it’s pretty obviously going to be boring. I always make it in chicken broth, usually adding in some spices or butter or both. There are two factors that are crucial to the texture: the water:couscous ratio and the steaming time. You should use 1 cup of water to 2/3 cup couscous, which you can obviously scale up or down easily. You also need to make sure that you let it steam, well-covered, for about 10 minutes. After that all you need to do is fluff and attend to your add ins.
For this post, I’ve gone with a simple slow roasted tomatoes and feta combination, but the options really are endless. Corn and grated carrots are also particular favorites of mine. Leftover chicken, shredded is a good protein in this situation. Clementines roughly chopped make a great break-away from the expected, especially when combined with pine nuts. Herbs, especially coriander/cilantro, make it feel a lot fancier than it is. And, of course, a little Parmesan on top never hurt anything.
I did debate for a while whether something like this was too basic for the blog, but decided to go with it anyway. If you think it is, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment saying so! But sometimes getting back to basics is good.
Basic Couscous with Feta and Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Note: this is just my preferred spicing combination, you should go with whatever your heart tells you.
1/2 cup couscous
3/4 cup broth (I use chicken)
knob of butter
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
dash of cayenne pepper
feta (I used about 2 tablespoons)
slow roasted tomatoes (I used about 10)
Bring your broth to a boil. Meanwhile, measure out the couscous into a bowl and add the paprika, cumin, and cayenne. Give it a few stirs around with a fork to distribute the spices evenly. Once the broth has boiled, add your butter (be as generous or stingy as you like!) to the couscous followed by the broth, and give it another stir. Cover relatively tightly (with saran wrap if you’re thorough, although I usually just put a plate on top of the bowl) and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
While you’re waiting for the couscous, you can get your add-ins together. Crumble your feta, and slice up you’re tomatoes if they’re in large slices. When it’s ready, fluff the couscous with a fork, and gently fold in the add ins. Eat immediately!