Couscous is one of those foods that is automatically associated with Morocco in most people’s minds. It is, in fact, consumed widely all across North Africa. Most interestingly, Egyptians eat couscous as a sweet item: for breakfast, a light supper, or dessert!
This recipe uses couscous, sugar, cinnamon, coconut, raisins, and nuts, to make an incredibly simple, yet very surprising dish.
A little info on couscous, for those of you who have never had it or don’t know much about it: Couscous is simply a pasta that is shaped into tiny little balls, but is much more versatile than the kind of pasta most Americans usually think of.
In Palestine, we have a variation of couscous that is called maftool. Maftool is also shaped into small balls, but they are slightly larger than those of North African couscous; they resemble little pearls. Ever heard of “Israeli Couscous?” Yeah. Maftool is about as Israeli as falafel or hummus, i.e it’s not.
For maftool, we make a tomato sauce with chickpeas and onions to serve with the pasta; it is one of my favorite traditional Palestinian dishes, and I will post a recipe for it sometime soon, inshallah!
But for now, it’s sugar time:
2 cups of couscous (usually comes in a box in the Middle Eastern section of your grocery store)
1/4 cup of melted butter
Toppings: whatever you like! Mix it up:
White sugar/brown sugar/powdered sugar/honey
Raisins (any kind you like)
Sweetened condensed milk
Put the dry couscous in a bowl.
Pour the melted butter over it, and mix in so that the butter coats all the couscous. Then, pour enough boiling water over the couscous to cover it by about half an inch.
Cover the bowl of buttery couscous and hot water and let it sit for about ten minutes. (I like to let it sit in the microwave because it’s insulated.) The couscous will absorb all the hot water and cook.
Fluff the couscous with a fork, then top with any combination of toppings you like!
Here is a picture of the bowl I made for myself this morning. My favorite toppings for Sweet Couscous are brown sugar, powdered sugar, almonds, coconut, and cinnamon.
It’s kind of like oatmeal, but definitely a lot more interesting. Try it!
A quick, rich Egyptian dessert that Taita likes to make every once in a while when we want something sweet but are lazy:
Soak about 2 cups of rice in water for five minutes. Drain the water off.
Boil some water in a large pot. Put the soaked rice into the boiling water. Boil until the rice is just cooked, then add about 1 liter of milk to the pot. Add a cup of thick cream if you have some on hand, to make it even richer.
Add sugar and vanilla to taste.
Add a handful of coconut to the mixture.
You could add a handful of raisins too, if you like them (I don’t like raisins, personally, hence the green highlight color). Stir constantly until it thickens.
Pour the thickened mixture into a baking dish, and put it under your broiler until the top of the pudding turns a rich golden color.
Let it cool, then cut it and serve! It can be eaten at room temperature, or chilled.
Couldn’t be simpler :)
My Palestinian Taita (grandmother) grew up in Egypt, so most of the food she makes is Egyptian food. It’s a nice change when she makes things we’re not used to having, like Egyptian stuffed potatoes, zucchini with bechamel sauce, or apricot pudding.
A few years back, Taita introduced me to the Egyptian drink “Moghat,” which is a popular drink for women after they give birth as a general refresher and lactagogue. I always wondered what exactly Moghat is, because when we buy it in Egypt from the spice seller, it comes in the form of a bright yellow powder. All they could tell me was that it was a plant, and that the roots are dried and ground then mixed with a variety of spices such as turmeric, ground rose seeds, sesame seeds, coconut, and raisins. Apparently, the scientific name for the Moghat plant is Glossostemon bruguieri, family (Sterculiaceae).
When cooked with sugar and water, Moghat becomes a thick, sweet drink that warms you wonderfully in the winter (it’s also bright yellow and looks really intense :P). Taita brought some Moghat powder back with her when she visited Egypt in November, so I decided to make some tonight. Here is her recipe!
Tip: The fat used to brown the Moghat powder in is called samneh baladiyyeh. You make it by melting down a quantity of butter, then letting it boil for a while until all the little impurities sink to the bottom. When cooled, what you get is clarified butter or “samneh.” Egyptians cook with samneh all the time; it is what makes Taita’s food so flavorful – and unhealthy :S The fresher and purer the butter you melt down, the better flavored samneh (and food!) you get. If you don’t have samneh, you can use butter.
Note: I apologize for how blurry some of these photos are. It was tough taking them with one hand, bad lighting, and hot Moghat on the fire that needed constant stirring!
For 3 cups of Moghat:
3 tablespoons of clarified butter (“samneh”) or butter
3 heaping tablespoons of Moghat powder (add more if you like it even thicker)
3 cups of hot water
1/4 cup of sugar (you can add more if you like it sweeter)
In a saucepan, melt the samneh or butter on medium heat. Add the Moghat powder.
Brown the powder in the samneh slightly, stirring constantly. The powder will clump a bit, and should look like this:
After browning the powder for a couple minutes, add the hot water. Watch out, it’s loud! Stirring constantly, add the sugar.
The Moghat will thicken after the sugar is added. Cook it for about two to three minutes – keep stirring! Check and make sure it’s as sweet as you’d like; if needed, you can add more sugar and stir for a bit longer.
Pour/ladle into your serving cups w sa77ah w hana :)
So next time you go to Egypt or know someone who is going, have them bring you back some Moghat! It’s pretty tasty.