This versatile fast food is an essential storecupboard staple - just soak it in hot water and in ten minutes you'll have an accompaniment to meat, fish, cooked vegetables or tagines, or the makings of a hearty salad. This granular type of pasta is made by sprinkling durum or hard wheat semolina grains with cold salted water and rolling and coating them in fine wheat flour. Couscous can be eaten hot or cold and is a staple ingredient in North Africa.
Traditional couscous can be bought in Britain, but needs pre-soaking and takes a long time to cook – it’s usually steamed. Quick-cook couscous is more readily available and more convenient, as it just needs rehydrating in boiled or simmering water. Ready-flavoured couscous can be bought in supermarkets, but you'll usually get a tastier result by adding your own ingredients to flavour plain couscous during cooking.
Stir cooked vegetables such as roasted peppers and mushrooms into rehydrated couscous, or toss with chopped nuts and dried fruits and flavour with a pinch of your favourite spice. Or serve cooked couscous as a dessert, sweetened with ground cinnamon.
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