This is a long post, or at least it took me longer than I thought it would, so I am late again to my weekly appointment with the blog… The recipe is based on the one my friend Carmen, who was born in Ceuta (Spanish city in the North of Africa), used to prepare. She is not so fond of cooking, but when she does, her food is amazing!
Spices and herbs are essential to this dish. I sometimes buy the Ras el Hanout (if I know that it is fresh and the mix is good) but normally I make my own mix. If you haven’t prepared couscous yet, you can start by buying your mix of spices at WorldMarket, Costco or WholeFoods, to give some examples, but ideally you should try to make your own mix.
Along the years, I made some changes to the original recipe and adapted it to my family’s preferences, so don’t expect a copy of the dish you could taste in the North of Africa, because, among other reasons, some of the spices and herbs you can get there are impossible to find elsewhere. Moreover, as I already mentioned, I adapted it to my taste, so I can’t assure this is an “authentic” dish, but I can tell you with no hint of doubt that it is delicious, healthy, nutritious, can be prepared in advance and you can make fantastic recipes with the leftovers… You have a royal flush in your hand with this couscous recipe!
Ingredients (4 servings)
For the Ras al Hanout
2 tbsps. of spice mix Ras al Hanout or, if possible, 1 tsp. of the following spices, freshly ground:
- Black pepper
- Bay leaf
- Rose petals
- Lavender (1/2 tsp.)
- Coriander seeds
- Pinch of saffron and 2-3 cloves
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 tsps. paprika
For the stock
1 pound chickpeas
½ chicken (free range if possible)
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 package couscous
4 chicken breasts (deboned)
2 red bell peppers
1 yellow bell pepper
3 vidalia onions
½ cup raisins
½ cup raw almonds
STEP 1.- 12 hours before you start cooking, put the chickpeas in a large bowl (they shouldn’t occupy more than 1/3 of the space in the bowl) and fill it to the top with hot water. Add 1/2 tbsp. salt and let soak overnight.
STEP 2.- Rinse and drain the chickpeas and place them in a cooking mesh. This will prevent them from getting all mushy and releasing their skin while cooking.
STEP 3.- Fill the pressure cooker to 1/3 with water, bring it to a boil and cook the ½ chicken (or 2 chicken thighs and legs) for 10 minutes, removing any foam that forms. Add the tomatoes, parsley, onions, carrots and salt and introduce the chickpeas. Make sure you are not exceeding 2/3 the capacity of the pot.
STEP 4.- Add 2 tbsps. of the mix of spices and close the lid. Cook for 40 minutes. Cool down, take the chicken and the carrots out, check the chickpeas and take out if soft and ready, and introduce the chicken breasts (I put them in a metal basket). Close the lid and cook for 7 minutes since the pressure builds.
STEP 5.- In the meanwhile, slice the eggplant and cut the peppers and zucchini; paint with olive oil, add salt and pepper and introduce in the preheated oven at 425ºF/210ºC for 10 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 5 minutes.
STEP 6.- Make the couscous following the instructions of the package, but replacing the water with the broth you just made.
STEP 7.- I usually bring to the table the broth, the couscous, the chickpeas, the chicken and the vegetables in separate dishes, so everyone can chose their favorite way to enjoy it (some like more broth, some like just the couscous, some mix everything…). You can also add the options you will find in our Tips section.
- You can caramelize 2 onions, add 100 grs. fried almonds and 50 grs. raisins (previously soaked and rinsed) and make a nice topping for your couscous.
- Another traditional addition is the harissa, or hot chili pepper sauce.
- You can prepare delicious empanadas with the chicken leftovers mixed with the onion, almonds and raisins.