Tuesday 21 February 2023

Chicken and lamb couscous

20 minutes to prepare Serves 4

'u cuscusu - II


I was first introduced to couscous by my Grandma, who used to prepare it for us when I was a child, during my summer vacations in Sicily. This was back in the early 1990’s when couscous, hummus and other Middle Eastern delights were not yet well known to most Italians.
She used to prepare it in the most traditional way - the same procedure my mum inherited and still follows - which includes creating the grains by mixing the flour with water by hand, and steaming it in a special double-chambered cooking vessel called a couscousière. Also, in the western part of Sicily, the most common way of eating couscous features a rich fish broth, and fishes of all sorts as side dish. Since then, I fell in love with the texture: thousands of tiny pasta-like pieces, warm and fluffy, soaking up whatever sauce Grandma served with it. Couscous quickly became my favorite starchy side dish, preferred over potatoes, pasta, rice and other grains. To this day, I find couscous a luxury.

More recently, my mother started to prepare couscous also in winter time, accompanied by a meat broth made of lamb and chicken. It’s one of those things I’ve been meaning to blog about for a long time, but I never quite got around to it until now. It’s a staple for us any time we have chance to visit Sicily and bring back some couscous flour.
The advantage to steaming couscous is that it cooks up drier and fluffier, meaning it can better absorb the liquid it is served with. Today instant couscous can easily be made and enjoyed without the need for a steaming insert (of course, if you have a couscoussier feel free to use it!).
Either way, this chicken and lamb couscous is an easy, healthy and tasty meal that is perfect for colder weather months. I consider it one of my ultimate comfort foods!

Here are ingredients for the 4-serving recipe:

280 g couscous
6 pieces lamb collar including the bone, neck
6 chicken thighs
1/3 cup Tomato paste
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 l water
4 carrots peeled and chopped
2 zucchinis diced
2 red peppers seeded and chopped
200 g chickpeas from a can or bottle drained
EVO oil
salt and pepper

  1. Place 400 ml of cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil and add a pinch of salt
  2. Put the couscous in a bowl. Pour the hot water over it. Let the couscous to swell for 10 minutes, covered by a lid. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and freshly ground pepper
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of EVO oil to the couscous. As couscous grains tend to bind together in the cooking process, fluff them with a fork
  4. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on medium and brown all the meat slightly
  5. Remove the chicken and set aside on a plate
  6. Add tomato paste, chopped onion, garlic and spices to the pan; allow the spices to cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the water and turn up the heat until the water boils. Reduce the heat to medium and cover the pot
  7. Cook for about 15 minutes, and return the chicken to the stockpot
  8. Taste the sauce at this stage and adjust the spices if necessary
  9. In another pan, heat the olive oil and add the carrots. Cook for another 15 minutes
  10. Add the chopped zucchini, and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes
  11. Add the chickpeas and salt to suit your taste, then reduce heat to low and simmer, until your couscous is ready
  12. Serve the couscous on a large platter surrounded by the meat and vegetables. Strain the remaining liquid from the pot and use it to wet the couscous with a large slotted spoon (you can also serve in a bowl alongside your meal)

Nutrition Facts are listed for this recipe in the table below. Data is provided per serving.

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