Cous Cous - Happy New Year!

*** A Family Holiday Tradition ***

(takes 4 hours or longer to cook, but lasts for several days)

This is an authentic Moroccan Dish that my parents used to cook on Holidays such as Easter and Christmas and sometimes also on Birthdays. I say "authentic Moroccan" because this recipe originally comes from my parents' friend M. who is indeed Moroccan. 

This dish takes a while to cook, as the soup needs to simmer for a couple of hours so that the soup meat gets soft. It is sort of a slow cooking process. My parents always made two big pots of the soup so that we had leftovers for at least 1-2 more days. This makes it the perfect Holiday dish, you do need some free time to cook it (about 4 hours) but it is exotic for a special occasion and the second day it tastes even better and you don't need to cook anymore. 

When my parents were younger they used to cook this dish for friends and family. Even so I was a picky eater as a child, this was always my favorite dish. It is special to me and I also started to cook it for friends and on special occasions. 




Step 1 - Sear the beef
  • 4-5 Tablespoons Oil
  • Soup Beef (with bone and fat)
  • 1 Onion - diced
  • 1 small Leek - sliced in rings
  • 1 small Carrot - sliced in rings
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt and Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons Tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Harissa

Step 2 - Slow cooking
  • Water
  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves
  • 12 Peppercorns
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 2-3 cups dried Chickpeas (soaked in water overnight)

Step 3 - Add the veggies (all cut into ca. 2 cm pieces)
  • 4 Carrots 
  • 4 Potatoes 
  • 3 Zucchini 
  • 3 Leek

Step 4 - Season to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter 
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt and Pepper
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Tomato paste
  • Harrisa to taste


  • Cous Cous (Instant, medium grain size)
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Water




Note: If you use dried chickpeas which I prefer as they are a little crunchier, you need to soak them in water overnight, the night before. 

1. Sear the beef
I have read that for many Moroccan Cous Cous dishes, they use lamp. However, we have always cooked it with beef. This meat is not really intended to be eaten but to build the flavor base for the soup. You will need a big piece of "soup meat", this means that the meat will need to have a lot of fat and bones to give the soup some flavor. If you also would like to eat a little bit of the meat, you can use a big piece of meat that has some good looking part and some fatty/bony part, or use 2 separate parts of meat - a smaller piece with fat and bones and an extra piece of good beef.

Now, let's get started. Use a big pot and cover the bottom with a good amount of oil. Heat the oil and add the meat, carefully so that it doesn't splatter. Sear the beef from all sides for about 5-10 minutes. How long it will take, depends on how big the meat and the sides are, don't rush it, this is a very important step as the searing of the beef will give the soup its flavor. Just keep an eye on the beef, that it gets dark on all sides, but not black.

Dice the onion, and cut one little carrot and leek into thin slices. Add to the meat. Let cook for another 5 minutes, but keep stirring it. You want the onions translucent, but not brown. Add the tomato paste and harissa, salt and pepper, stir it and let cook for 2-3 more minutes so that the flavor of the tomato paste mixes with the base.

2. Slow cooking
Fill the pot with water so that the beef is completely covered. Bring to a boil. Add the garlic cloves, pepper corns and bay leafs. Let simmer with the lid half closed for about 1.25 hours till the beef is soft (poke it with a fork). You might need to add another 20 minutes if the beef is not soft yet. Check the soup every 20-30 minutes and make sure that the beef is covered by the water. You may need to add more water. 

If you use dried chickpeas that you soaked overnight, you can add them now as they will need to be boiled for about 1.5-2 hours.

3. Add the veggies  --- good time to also start the cous cous
Peel the carrots and potatoes, wash the leeks and zucchinis. Cut all in about 2 cm pieces, the potato pieces can be cut a little bigger. Now you will need to add the veggies in an order so that all of them will be soft at the same time. Potatoes and carrots are the hardest veggies and need to be added first. I use Yukan Gold Potatoes which are pretty hard and I cut them in bigger pieces, so I start with the potatoes and let them cook for 5 minutes, then add the carrots and let them cook another 5 minutes. Then I add the leeks and zucchinis and let cook another 5-10 minutes till everything is soft (try with a fork). If you use canned chickpeas, add them now.

Notes: The order of the veggies depends on how big your pieces are and also, what kind of potatoes you are using. Some potatoes need longer than others.The cooking time may also be adjusted depending on how hot you let the soup boil. 

4. Season to taste
Take the meat out of the soup. Add a little piece of butter (1 tablespoon) and let it melt into the soup. Add 2-3 tablespoons of tomato mark and salt and pepper. Stir good. Add harissa to taste (it is spicy so be careful). You can also add some Vegeta (vegetable salty soup spice).

    You can prepare the Cous Cous in two different ways. Either follow the package instructions which is very fast or cook it over water steam which will take about 1 hour.

    Instant Preparation
    When you follow the package instructions, just make sure to use a little less water than they require. For a full box of cous cous, use 1.5 cups of water (instead the required 2 cups). Bring the water with some butter and salt to a boil, stir in the cous cous, cover the pot with a lid and take from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. The cous cous will soak up the water completely. Then use a fork to loosen up the cous cous. Add another small piece of butter and salt to taste.

    Steaming the cous cous is the more traditional way and that is the way it was taught to us. However, you will need a special set of pots for it: one big pot for the bottom in which you will boil the water, and a steaming pot (a pot with holes in the bottom) to put on top. The cous cous will be steamed in several separate sessions (2-3 sessions) and will be transferred back and forth from a bowl to the steaming pot.

    1. Fill the big pot at the bottom with water, half full. Add salt. Bring to a boil. Make sure that there is always water in the pot. You might need to add water. This will create the water steam. 
    2. Prepare the cous cous. Add it to a bowl, add 1 - 1.5 cups of water and some salt and stir it. The cous cous grains will immediately soak up all the water, so that they are bigger now and will not fall through the steaming pot holes. 
    3. First steaming session. Transfer the cous cous into the steaming pot, add 1 tablespoon of butter in the middle of the cous cous and cover.  Let steam for about 25 minutes.
    4. Second steaming session. Transfer cous cous to the bowl again, loosen it up with a fork. Add 1 tablespoon butter and stir, remove all clumps. Add some more salt. Transfer back to the steaming pot. Again, add a little piece of butter in the middle of the cous cous. Let steam for another 15 minutes.
    5. Third steaming session. Transfer cous cous back to bowl, stir. Taste. If cous cous too dry add another piece of butter and let steam for another 10 minutes.

    Serve with the soup and with a dry red wine.

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