Moroccan onion and raisin couscous with roasted carrots and cabbage
I’m pretty sure that when Americans think of Moroccan couscous, they think of vegetables. Please, correct me if I’m wrong! This is actually my favorite kind, though: Onion and raisin couscous with chicken. It may sound odd, but it’s got a hint of sweetness and a lot of flavor that makes me swoon. When I saw that our box this week had 3 onions, and I had just bought some from the grocery store, I knew this would be the perfect use for them. The fact that it also had carrots and cabbage, two typical couscous vegetables, made it that much better. Please ignore my shadow on the plate, I was hungry!
In Morocco, the chicken would be slowly poached in spiced water with chickpeas, with the couscous in a special steamer basket that is made to go on top, like this:
Traditional couscous pot. Meat and vegetables go in the bottom with broth, and the grain on top to get some lovely flavors from the steam.
I don’t have a couscous pot, so I use the lazy American way of doing couscous: For 2 servings, bring one cup of water (or broth) to a boil. Turn off heat, add couscous and cover 2-5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Couscous is a very important food in Morocco. Traditionally, every Friday the family gets together and eats couscous. It’s most often with vegetables – zucchini, pumpkin, cabbage, carrots… kind of whatever is in season. No tomatoes, though you might find them in a salad with cucumbers as a side dish. Even today it’s expected that you eat couscous on Fridays. If you can’t get home to eat with your family, most restaurants serve it for Friday lunch. Lots of shops are closed Friday afternoon, as it’s the holy day, so you can take your time and enjoy the delicious piping hot meal.
All of the recipes I found in English ask you to use traditional methods, which I find pretty odd since it’s not like we have all of those utensils here… The ones written by those who make it regularly say ‘a good amount of this’ or ‘a bit of that’ which doesn’t really help someone who doesn’t know how it should taste! This is how I made it work in a typical American kitchen.
Moroccan Onion and Raisin Couscous with Chicken
For the Chicken (or lamb or beef):
- 3 pound chicken
- chicken broth (water is completely authentic, too)
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp salt (skip if your broth has salt)
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 can chickpeas (I forgot to buy these, so they are not pictured)
For the onions:
- 5 medium onions (yes, that many! It cooks down a ton)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp curry
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil
- 2/3 cup raisins
Cook the chicken and chickpeas with all of the spices and broth in a crock pot on high for 3-4 hours, or low 6-8. You want it to simply fall apart with medium pressure (Moroccans eat it with one hand!)
When it’s finally close to meal time, thinly slice all of the onions. Place raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water so that they inflate a bit. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and spices and start the onions cooking. When the smell gets nice and strong, take a few ladles of the meat cooking liquid (about a cup and a half), and add it to the onions with the raisins AND the onion that cooked with the meat. Keep cooking. When the liquid all boils off, keep stirring the onions. You want them to not have any crunch left to them, and have sweated out all of their water. They should get to be a nice yellow-brown (yellow from the turmeric – watch out for your clothes.)
Onions with cooking broth
They reduce so much!
If you haven’t already, now is the time to make the couscous, as stated above – a cup of boiling water/broth with a cup of uncooked couscous.
I served mine with couscous on the bottom, then the chicken, covered with the onion and raisin mixture on top. If it is too dry (this is likely) add some extra cooking broth over the top.