my experiments with fooooood!!!

Couscous Pulao with Chickpeas and Harissa sauce

Couscous is something I recently discovered. I always thought of couscous as the anglicized version of khas-khas (poppy seeds)…….how far from the truth I was! Its only in recent times that I figured out what couscous really is….all thanks to MasterChef…..khee khee :).
For the uninitiated, couscous is a kind of semolina made from durum wheat. Couscous is quite popular in the Middle East and is used aplenty in Middle Eastern cuisine. From the several recipes that I’ve gone through, i’ve seen that couscous is commonly served with meat and/or veggies.

Couscous is readily available in most gourmet stores and available in several flavours too. It has to be then prepared by adding boiling water or stock to it and letting it sit and soak all the water. Once prepared it turns all fluffy.

Now, the first time I prepared couscous was about a month ago when a dear friend and her hubby visited us. More about that visit and my couscous preparation for them in my next post. But one thing about that preparation that bears a connection to this more recent preparation was that the first time I had had couscous delivered home from a gourmet store nearby and unfortunately for me they delivered mint flavoured couscous!! Now, mint is not a flavour that I am very fond of and I was really upset about it. 😦 That very evening I’d decided that I had to get hold of a pack of regular couscous – the non flavoured kind – and prepare it and more importantly eat it! 😉

Now I didn’t want to prepare the same recipe that I’d tried earlier and so what do i do?? But of course…………..I dive into that divine box full of recipes and spend an hour looking for couscous preparations. To my luck, I find there a lovely, healthy, fresh and easy-to-make recipe for Couscous Pulao with Chickpeas. I rarely plan my meals and so its huge if I do get hold of all the ingredients given in a recipe!! 😛 And what a surprise that I had available with me almost all the ingredients for this recipe!

So here goes the recipe:

2 cups cooked chickpeas (kabuli chana)

1 cup stock (you could use vegetable or chicken stock – i always use chicken stock cubes from maggi)

2 red chillies

3 pods garlic

1/2 tbsp roasted whole coriander seeds

1/2 tbsp roasted fennel seeds (also known as saunf – now the original recipe I think calls for using caraway/shahjeera but I didn’t have any shahjeera so I used fennel seeds instead and I must confess here that I forgot to roast it!! :-P)

2-3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

Juice of one sweet lime (musambi) or if not available, lime should do with a pinch of sugar maybe

1 cucumber diced into medium sized pieces

2 ripe tomatoes chopped up or 1 cup of cherry tomatoes (I used tomatoes)

1 large onion chopped fine

250 gms couscous (the packs available in stores are usually of 500 gms so about half that pack should do)

Salt to taste


Take couscous in a bowl. Bring the cup of stock to a boil and pour over the couscous such as just to cover it. Cover with lid an let this sit for a minute or two.

Meanwhile, lightly saute the onions and tomatoes in some olive oil. Now, the original recipe does not call for this – it merely says that you have to add the onions and tomatoes to the couscous. I do not like the taste of raw onions and so decided to saute them until they turned just glossy. And then added the tomatoes and just tossed them for a minute. Do not fry them for longer. The idea was to just soften them.

Now combine the roasted coriander, fennel, garlic, chillies, sweet lime juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt in a blender. This dressing or sauce is apparently called “harissa” in some cuisines around the world. The original “harissa”, I believe, is a slightly thicker paste with several kinds of hot chilly peppers ground to a paste with ingredients like garlic, lime juice, olive oil etc. The one in this recipe is much lighter and more saucy-ish than paste-ish! While writing this post it struck me that maybe I should try adding a red bell pepper to the harissa while blending, which may lend the sauce some thickness to its consistency while not increasing the spice content. Red and yellow bell peppers are sweeter than their green counterpart.

Check on the couscous to see if its done. Fluff it up a bit with a fork.

Now simply add the sauteed onions and tomatoes, cooked chickpeas, cucumber and the dressing to the couscous and combine well.

Garnish with herbs of your choice like coriander leaves or basil leaves or both or any other herb of your choice. I used none….he he he… 😀 coz I had none available…..i told you i wasn’t much of a planner.

Dig in!!  Oh and you may have this as is or with some chicken or vegetable stew. We ate it as is and loved all of it….the distinct flavour of fennel and lemon juice in the harissa, the squidgy feel of the chickpeas in your mouth alongside the fresh crunchiness of the cucumber….it was yum!!

Note: This recipe serves 3-4 adults

Pictures: Sorry guys, I have just one picture of the final dish for this post.  One of the reasons I haven’t documented this dish in pictures is also because it was after I prepared this dish that I really decided to start blogging and had never before thought of taking pics of the stages of preparation! 🙂

How the Pulao looked finally!


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