Authentic Tunisian couscous can be made in a large pot with a steamer insert where the meat and vegetables are cooked in the bottom element and the grains are steamed on top. Tinned chickpeas may be used instead of dried ones.
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100g dried chickpeas
2 large onions
2 to 3 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for frying
1kg lean stewing beef, cubed
2 (400g) tins chopped tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons ras el hanout
salt to taste
2 waxy potatoes
2 small turnips
1 handful fresh broad beans, shelled
1 medium courgette
1 fist-sized piece fresh marrow, peeled and seeded
400g fine couscous
4 light green peppers (Italian frying peppers)
3 tablespoons butter
freshly ground black pepper
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Method Prep:1hr › Cook:4hr10min › Extra time:8hr › Ready in:13hr10min
Soak the chickpeas overnight in a pot in plenty of cold water. The next day, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook, covered, until the chickpeas are tender but not falling apart, 1 to 2 hours depending on the size and age of the chickpeas. Check every so often if there is enough water in the pot and add more if necessary. Remove from the heat and let the chickpeas cool in the cooking liquid.
Mince the onion and the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and fry until translucent. Turn up the temperature just a notch and add the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons ras el hanout and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Cook, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, checking for liquid every so often to make sure that the meat is always immersed in liquid, and add water as necessary.
In in the meantime peel the potatoes and the vegetables and cut into large chunks.
Place the couscous in a large bowl and sprinkle with water. Mix well with your hands until the grains feel slighly moist.
After 1 1/2 hours of cooking time, add the potatoes and vegetables to the meat and cook at medium-low temperature for 10 minutes. Add the courgette and marrow and the rinsed and drained chickpeas (if using tinned chickpeas, also rinse and drain). Mix well and also scrape over the bottom so so soilds stick and scorch, and continue to cook at medium-low heat.
Place the moistened couscous in the steamer insert and cover with the lid. Cook for 15 minutes, then tip the couscous back into the bowl and mix well. Return the couscous to the steamer insert and cook covered until steam rises from the couscous when you remove the lid, about 15 minutes more.
While the couscous is steaming, trim and halve the peppers. Slit lengthways and remove the seeds. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan and fry the peppers until lightly browned on both sides. Set aside.
Tip the cooked couscous into a large serving bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and stir into the couscous with a cooking spoon until melted and evenly distributed.
Season the meat with salt, pepper and ras el hanout to taste. Strain the sauce into a jug. Gradually pour 2 to 3 cups of sauce over the couscous and mix well after each addition (the grains absorb a lot of liquid).
Arrange the meat and the vegetables on top of the couscous and garnish with the fried peppers. Serve the rest of the sauce on the side.