Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
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Basic Recipe
Every box of couscous comes with directions for preparing it, often quickly, and with leaden, mushy results. The following instructions yield the classic couscous — light, fluffy, and every grain distinct. It's worth the time.
Total time: 1-½ hours
3 lbs. couscous
½ cup melted unsalted butter
½ cup water
2 tsp. salt

You will need a couscousiere, or a large pot; a fine-mesh colander that will fit snugly in the pot, leaving several inches of room for the boiling water; and muslin to line the colander.

Pour the couscous into a large roasting pan, cover it with 10 cups of cold water, and stir well. Drain, return to the pan and let it rest for 15 minutes. Pour water into the couscousiere or into the pot to a depth of several inches, to a level just below where the colander will sit.

While the water comes to a boil, work with the couscous. Gently rub the grains between your fingers to break up any lumps; then turn the couscous into the top of the couscousiere or into the muslin-lined sieve. Put the couscousiere top in its place, or nestle the colander in the upper part of the pot, wrapping a wet towel around the edge to prevent steam from escaping. Steam the couscous, uncovered, for a half-hour; then, remove the couscous and pour it back into the roasting pan.

Sprinkle the couscous with a half cup of melted butter, a half cup of cold water, and 2 teaspoons of salt, then rake it gently with your fingers, separating and fluffing up the grains. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then return it to the couscousiere or colander. Put the couscousiere top or colander back in its place, wrap the edge of the pot with a wet towel, and steam the couscous, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Taste to check the tenderness of the grains, then turn it out into a large serving bowl or platter, and enjoy.