Is it "authentic Moroccan?" Probably not... However, Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas, Spinach, and Dried Fruit is loaded with Moroccan flavor, warm spices, and healthy ingredients. Served alongside your healthy main it's fabulous, but it also makes a great stand alone vegetarian main dish!
By seeking and blunder we learn.
~~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Germany's greatest man of letters..."
My Moroccan Couscous was promised long ago... 😯 When I published North African Pressure Cooker Lamb Shanks, I included it in the photos, and promised the recipe for the couscous would follow. Lol. That was January 5, 2015 (I still lived in New Mexico!).
So here we are 3+ years later, with the promised recipe. Yes, blogging has been a journey. I have learned a lot. As a perfectionist, I have to remind myself daily to give myself grace - as I do others.
I regularly use my Instant Pot/pressure cooker to cook my chickpeas, but I keep canned beans of several varieties on hand - chickpeas (aka garbanzos), cannelini, and black beans. I prefer the taste and texture of the cooked from dried chickpeas. If using canned, you'll want to rinse away the starchy liquid.
What is Couscous?
Couscous is a quintessential North African staple, and probably originated with the Berbers (an indigenous group found primarily in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria) in the 7th century. The couscous widely available in the US is an "instant" product, and not all that similar to the "real stuff." It has been pre-steamed and dried, thus it needs only about 5 minutes in boiling water.
Authentic couscous is typically steamed, often atop a pot of stew. It absorbs the flavors of the stew, and is quite delicious. We used to celebrate our anniversary at a Moroccan restaurant in southern California that did amazing, authentic couscous dishes!
Couscous is not just small pasta. I hear that a lot. It is made from crushed durum wheat semolina; pasta is made from ground wheat. It follows, then, that couscous is NOT GLUTEN FREE. The macros will be similar to pasta.
What makes Couscous with Chick Peas, Spinach, and Dried Fruit "Moroccan?"
Couscous is super versatile, but this dish does hit Moroccan flavor notes. Ras el hanout, a spice mix often used in North African cooking, is to Moroccan food what garam masala is to Indian. There is no one recipe.
Whether you use a commercially prepared ras el hanout, or make your own simple mixture, you’re sure to love this exotic combination of spices. Ras el hanout recipes vary, but typically include spices like cumin, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and cayenne.
An authentic ras el hanout is made from freshly ground whole spices, and may include more exotic spices like star anise and cardamom pods. You may even find dried caper and lavender in some recipes. 🙂
Moroccan cooks typically reserve this spice mixture for specialty dishes… The flavor is indeed special, and I love incorporating it into simple dishes like my Moroccan Carrot Salad With Lemon Dressing, Ras El Hanout Chicken Kebabs, and Moroccan Couscous Salad With Grilled Veggies and Chicken. Ras el hanout transforms even the humblest fare!
Of course chick peas, dried fruit, fresh herbs, and almonds are very typical of Moroccan cuisine as well. I love the versatility of this dish!
How can I Customize My Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas, Spinach, and Dried Fruit?
I've made it with dried cherries (in the photos), dried apricots, dates, raisins, even Craisins... See what you've got in your pantry?
Sautéed zucchini works well in place of the spinach, while orange mint, cilantro, parsley, and spearmint make great additions. I have added diced chicken and ground lamb, and served it as a #MeatlessMonday dish with a scoop of Greek yogurt (and no animal protein).
Olives make an occasional appearance as well. All that to say, this is a great dish to "make your own" by adding what you love!
Will you give it a try? And if you're into lamb, make sure you take a look at an OLD recipe - North African Pressure Cooker Lamb Shanks!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot, chopped (see notes)
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tsp ras el hanout, *see notes
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, I like hot!
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 1/4 cup broth or stock, *see notes
- 2 cups cooked chick peas
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped (dried cherries, dates, etc.)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt and several grinds pepper, to taste
- 6 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup dried couscous, (see notes)
- sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
- fresh herbs (mint, cilantro, parsley), chopped
- Add olive oil to a medium saucepan on medium-high heat.
- Add the ginger, garlic, and shallot. Saute until onion is soft, transparent, and beginning to get some color (5 minutes or so).
- Add ras el hanout, smoked paprika, cumin. Stir 1 minute or so.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Add the broth or stock. Add chick peas and dried apricots (or other dried fruit). Bring to a boil.
- Add couscous and baby spinach. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit 5 minutes (or time specified on the package). Check for seasoning.
- Garnish with chopped fresh herbs and toasted sliced or slivered almonds.
* If you can't find ras el hanout, and don't want to make your own, substitute 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
* Red or sweet onion are great substitutes for a shallot. About 1/4 cup finely minced is great!
* Check the ratio of liquid required by your specific package for 1 cup couscous, and adjust if necessary.
Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal.com): 264 calories; 9 g protein; 38 g carbohydrates; 9 g fat.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 264Total Fat: 9gCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 9g