Tag Archive | snack food

Pasta for Dessert?! Egyptian-style Sweet Couscous

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:

Ingredients:

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

Cinnamon

Raisins (any kind you like)

Coconut

Walnuts/Almonds/Hazelnuts

Sweetened condensed milk

Method

Put the dry couscous in a bowl.

Uncooked North African couscous..

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!

Homemade Snacks: Baleela and Fule

In the fall and winter, the streets of Amman are filled with men selling Baleela and Fule off of small carts. Baleela – not to be confused with the Egyptian wheat cereal – is chickpeas cooked in a tomato broth, while Fule is fava beans cooked until tender with lemon and salt. Both are flavored with cumin, and are eaten as a popular street food.

I particularly remember leaving the University of Jordan campus on gray, rainy winter evenings, and stopping to order Fule from the man with his cart who stood right outside the main gate. For 25 piasters, I would get a good-sized plastic pouch of Fule from the steaming hot mound piled high, and decorated with slices of fresh lemon. I would snack on the hot beans as I waited to get a taxi home.

Many people make Baleela and Fule as an evening snack at home, too, because it’s so easy,and you can control the quality and quantities of seasoning.

Baleela

2 cups of good quality chickpeas (dried or canned)

2-3 large onions, sliced into rings

1 cup of tomato sauce OR 3 tbsp of tomato paste

1 tbsp of cumin

1/2 tbsp of ginger

1/2 tbsp of black pepper

1/4 tsp of turmeric

1/4 tsp of paprika (optional)

hot pepper flakes or hot chili powder to taste (optional)

salt to taste

Method

If using dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight, or give them a Quick Soak: Put the chickpeas in a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Let boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover, and let the peas soak for an hour to an hour and a half. They should be slightly tender by now. Add half a cup of water and simmer, covered, on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until chickpeas are cooked and tender. Proceed with recipe.

If using canned chickpeas, drain the liquid off of them, rinse, then put in a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Cover and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Proceed with recipe.

To the pot of chickpeas and water, add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer, covered, on low heat for 20 minutes.

Serve in bowls, with plenty of the broth! Squeeze fresh lemon on it right before eating.

Fule

2 cups of good quality dried fava beans (they’re usually quite large, but the variety I found here at my Middle Eastern store were really tiny, as you can see in the picture)

2 onions, chopped

1.5 tbsp of cumin

1/2 tbsp of black pepper

hot pepper flakes or hot chili powder to taste (optional)

salt to taste

Method

Soak the beans overnight or using the Quick Soak Method described above for the chickpeas.

To the pot of fava beans and water, add the rest of the ingredients. Let simmer, covered, on low heat for 20-30 minutes. The skins of the beans should start to crack open; this is a sign that they’re ready.

Fule is usually served steaming hot and without the broth. People sprinkle salt, extra cumin, and a squeeze of lemon onto their individual servings. You eat them with your fingers, popping the skins off before putting them in your mouth. Delicious!

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