The 13th century Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook mentions couscous several times, but doesn't give any detailed recipes for its preparation. For simplicity, we used bulk purchased couscous from the health food store.
16 cups couscous
32 cups boiling water
powdered vegetable broth
1 quart olive oil or melted butter
1. Put dry couscous in large relatively shallow pan or dish (we used chafing dishes).
2. Pour in boiling water.
3. Sprinkle with powdered vegetable broth.
4. Stir to blend vegetable broth mix and to moisten evenly.
5. Cover with foil and let stand about 1/2 hour.
6. Remove foil carefully, and pour in oil or butter.
7. Stir again - it's likely to be still moist.
8. Cover again and let stand until the water is absorbed, another 15 or 20 minutes or so.
We didn't make all the couscous at once, but rather divided it into three batches.
The Face of the Couscous
an Onion-Raisin Sauce
To be honest, I don't remember exactly how much of each ingredient I used when I made this. Partly it was by taste. This is served as a topping for the couscous and tagine.
5 lb. onions (about 8 cups?)
1/2 cup olive oil, or more as needed
2 to 4 cups raisins or more until there are enough
[2 cups almonds, halved or slivered, optional]
2 Tb. cinnamon or more to taste
1 tsp. salt - since vegetable base was already salted - for unsalted base, use more, to taste
1/2 Tb. pepper, or to taste
1/2 to 1 Tb. ginger, or to taste, optional
1/2 tsp. saffron, optional, but really nice
2 to 4 cups stock, as needed
- I used vegetable (dried, powdered) to accommodate vegetarians, but lamb, beef, or chicken are also appropriate; anything with pork is NOT.
4 Tb. cinnamon
1 c. butter
1. Top and tail onions and peel them well.
2. Cut in half across the middle, then in slices long-wise. If any onions are really big, cut in quarters, then slice.
3. Heat oil in a heavy pat on medium-high heat. I used a cast iron dutch oven to hold all the onions. Thin aluminum pans will probably burn the sauce on the bottom, so if you use one, you will have to stay near the pot to check the contents often.
4. When oil is hot, add onions and stir well to coat.
5. This will take quite a while to cook down. You'll need to stir occasionally, and you may need to check and adjust the temperature from time to time.
6. When all the onions are soft and starting to turn pale golden, add raisins and spices (and optional almonds), stir well so ingredients are distributed throughout the onions, and cook on medium-low heat about 10 minutes.
7. Add broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until raisins are plump and sauce is thick. It is better to use perhaps a little less stock and add more as necessary, than to make the mixture too wet. However, if you use too much, it's porbably not a disaster; just cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced.
Serve over couscous along with tagine of meat and/or vegetables.
Seven Vegetable Tagine
This is a compromise recipe, based on modern recipes, but with New World ingredients removed. The seven vegetables I used were cabbage, carrots, chickpeas, eggplant, fava beans, pattypan squash (as a substitute for the Medieval white flower gourd), and turnips. A modern seven vegetable tagine often includes potatoes and some sort of orange fleshed squash and among the seasonings is hot red chili pepper paste.
1/2 c. olive oil
10 lb. onions, coarsely chopped
40 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup ground coriander seed
3 Tb. ground cumin seed
2 Tb. powdered cinnamon
1 Tb. powdered ginger
1 Tb. ground white pepper
broth to cover or several cups of water plus dried vegetable broth powder
10 lb. turnips, peeled and cut in chunks
10 lb. carrots, cut in lengths
6 Asian eggplants, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 green cabbages
5 lb. pattypan squash, cubed
2 3-lb. cans chick peas
1 lb. fresh fava beans
1. Heat oil, cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they get soft and begin to change color, about 30 min.
2. While onions are cooking, pop fava beans out of pods, drop in boiling water, drain, then PEEL each bean - the skin is tough. Set peeled beans aside.
3. Stir in spices and garlic, and heat briefly until aroma is released.
4. Divide the ingredients evenly between two huge kettles.
5. Cook turnips in broth to cover until tender, about 20-30 min.
6. Add carrots, eggplant, squash, and fava beans, and cook until tender, about 15-20 min.
7. Add chickpeas and cook until warmed through.
White Tharîdah of al Rashid
translated by Charles Perry from a 9-10th c. Islamic collection
Take a chicken and joint it, or meat of a kid or lamb, and clean it and throw it in a pot, and throw on it soaked chickpeas, clean oil, galingale, cinnamon sticks, and a little salt. And when it boils, skim it. Take fresh milk and strain it over the pot and throw in onion slices and boiled carrots. And when it boils well, take peeled almonds and pound them fine. Break over them five eggs and mix with wine vinegar. Then throw in the pot and add coriander, a little pepper and a bit of cumin and arrange it and leave on the fire, and serve, God willing.
Anahita's recipe for 150
Makes about 14 gallons
36 lb. boneless chicken parts - I used thighs
10 lb. large onions, sliced and chopped
10 lb. carrots, cut into coins or sticks
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup galingale (8 Tb)
3/8 cup powdered cinnamon (6 Tb)
1/2 cup salt
water as needed
3 quarts whole milk
3 6-lb. 12-oz. cans canned chickpeas, drained (about 20 lb cooked)
1/2 cup ground coriander
3/8 cup cumin
3 Tb. ground white pepper
3 dozen eggs
3 lb almonds = 3-1/2 c. ground
1 cup white wine vinegar
I cooked this in three pots, so I put 1/3 of each ingredient into each pot.
1. In a pot put chicken, onion slices, carrots, cooking oil, galingal, cinnamon, and salt.
2. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the chicken is tender.
3. Pour in milk, stir and bring back to a slow boil.
4. Stir in drained chickpeas.
5. Stir in coriander, pepper and cumin.
6. Taste and adjust seasonings.
7. While milk is heating, beat eggs with vinegar, add ground almonds and mix well.
8. Turn off heat.
9. Then slowly pour the egg-almond mixture into the pot, little by little, stirring. The heat of the chicken will cook the egg mix.