What is "couscous"?
The word ‘couscous’ refers to two things:
A traditional North African ingredient made with hard wheat semolina – it consists of little granules, and forms the starch portion of a dish in the same ways as rice or pasta in other cuisines. It is rather flavourless, but it forms a delicious accompaniment to stews and sauces;
Couscous is also a spicy stew which is considered the national dish of countries such as Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia – it is served with couscous as the starch component of the dish.
Even though the word couscous is Berber in origin, I’m filing it under French, as the North African countries which feature it in their cuisine were at various times colonized by the French, and French is still spoken there. Couscoussière is undoubtedly a French word.
A couscoussière (and you will find various spellings for this word including couscoussier and couscousiere) is a cooking vessel which consists of two parts – the stew is cooked in the bottom part, and the steam which escapes upwards through holes in the top pan cooks the starchy couscous in the top chamber, as well as infusing it with the aromas of the stew.
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