Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Layla’s Tuesday Cookery Class Part 1

Last night was the first of lovely Layla’s Tuesday cookery classes. For the bargain price of 40Dirhams (about £3/$5 for our American visitors) we got a step-by-step guide to making Moroccan couscous with chicken and vegetables at the ALIF villa and to eat the fruits of our (well, mostly Layla’s) labour. This is meant to be an idiot-proof guide to making it. We’ll see when I try to recreate it back home. Next week it’s tagine and after that, pastilla. Lush.

Enough for about 12 hungry people – divide quantities depending on how many you're feeding.


2 kilos skinless chicken joints

1 ½ kilos couscous

4 onions (halved then sliced lengthways)

2 tomatoes (quartered)

2 cups chickpeas (soaked overnight)

2 kilos potatoes

1 ½ kilos carrots

1 white cabbage

2 large green chillies (actually, I’d go for more so depending on how hot you like it – 2 was pretty mild, I reckon)

fistful each of coriander and parsley folded then tied into a bouquet garni

1 ½ tablespoons ground black pepper

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon saffron

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup olive oil

2 heaped tablespoons salt


Hobtop pot/multi steamer. I reckon you could probably get away with using a large casserole and a bamboo steamer using some of the stock?


1. Chuck all the ingredients (except potatoes, carrots, cabbage and chillies) into the casserole/pot with c. 2 cups of water, bring to the boil and leave for c. 25 minutes with the lid on.

2. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into man-sized chunks then cover with cold water to prevent from going brown.

3. Peel carrots and halve then quarter again lengthways into c. finger-sized pieces.

4. Keep an eye on the casserole/pot – it should be braising not sauteeing so add water if necessary.

5. To begin the couscous operation (it’s not like back home where you just chuck hot liquid on for a few minutes – this takes some more time and love!) pour cous cous into giant vat.

6. Add 3 cups of cold water and leave for about 7 minutes uncovered.

7. After 7 minutes, separate couscous with hands (like making breadcrumby pastry).

8. Put couscous into steamer section of hobtop multi-steamer thingy and put this over the meat and vegetables to steam for 15 minutes with the lid off.

9. Cut cabbage into eight pieces.

10. After 15 minutes put couscous into food vat.

11. Keeping the heat high, add the carrots, potatoes, cabbage and whole chillies to the casserole/pot, add enough water to cover, replace lid. There’s about another hour to go at this stage.

12. Now add about 10-12 cups of water to the couscous and leave for 5 minutes.

13. Stir/fluff couscous.

14. Add ½ cup sunflower oil.

15. Add 1 tablespoon salt and stir well for c. 1 minute.

16. When casserole returns to the boil, put ½ the cous cous back into the steamer thingy over casserole again.

17. Careful – liquid can’t reach the couscous so ladle some out if necessary but save any stock you remove.

18. Have a nice cup of tea and a sit down.

19. After about 15 minutes, swap steaming couscous for the half left over.

20. After about another 15 minutes, take couscous off the heat and mix with earlier batch.

21. Add the reserved stock to the casserole/pot, taste and season to taste if necessary then leave it to do its thing for about another 20 minutes.

22. Have another sit down while the kitchen fairy washes up and lays the table.

To serve

1. Put couscous onto large platters.

2. Serve casserole on couscous with chillies on top.

3. Ladle over some of the broth leaving some aside to serve.

4. Serve onto plates or do it the communal Moroccan way and just dig in with only your right hands if you’ve got the knack!

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