Couscous/Water Ratio

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by markv, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. markv

    markv

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    Dear friends:

    I'm researching couscous for a future article. I was perusing a number of cookbooks and internet recipes regarding the water to couscous ratio used when cooking couscous.

    Like most recipes, every source I consulted was different resulting in a wide range of ratios.

    I have always done a 2-1 ratio, (water to couscous) with good results.

    I was wondering what others have experienced.

    Thanks.

    Mark
     
  2. suzanne

    suzanne

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    Are you referring to "instant" (pre-cooked) couscous, or the "authentic" kind (or both)? I assume you're talking about instant, yes? Instant is the kind you just mix into boiling water or broth, and let sit for 5 minutes or so to absorb the liquid; the real thing takes much more effort to prepare.

    For instant couscous, the differing amounts of water listed might be due to the instructions that follow the basic preparation. If the recipe calls for steaming AFTER the couscous has been rehydrated, a ratio of 1:1 or slightly more water than couscous will be sufficient. If the instant couscous is to be served without further cooking, the ratio of water to grain needs to be higher -- as much as 2:1, which you use. The ratio also needs to be higher if there are other water-absorbing ingredients mixed into the couscous, such as dried fruits.

    Authentic couscous is a whole different animal (so to speak) when it comes to preparation.

    I hope this helps explain the differences you've noticed. Which cookbooks did you look at? (Just curious)
     
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    For the instant couscous I use, the maker recommends 1 1/2 water to 1 couscous. That comes out soggy and watery to my taste. I prefer 1 1/4 to 1.

    I don't think there is an absolute answer here.

    phil
     
  4. markv

    markv

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    Yes, I was definitely talking about the instant couscous. The maker of the one I use also recommends 1 1/2 to 1, water to couscous, but unlike yours phatch, I found this to be too dry.
     
  5. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    Instant couscous is a 1:1 ratio.
     
  6. flash

    flash

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    I second that chiffonade, 1:1 works every time.

    I measure my couscous (instant) into a bowl.
    boil water or vegetable stock and pour over couscous.
    give it a good stir and cover with plastic wrap.
    at this point i usually put it in the walk-in or refer at home.
    when it cools, i break up the big lumps, pour in a couple Tblsp. of olive oil and rub out the rest of the lumps between my hands (as if you were warming your hands by a fire).

    this is how i prepare it for taboulleh (sp?).

    for hot, and in a restaurant situation, i reheat it with a little water or stock in a bowl over a saucepot (double-boiler style).


    hope this helps....




    flash
     
  7. suzanne

    suzanne

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    So, MarkV -- as you can tell from all these posts, there is no "one right way." Brands of couscous differ, the age of the product can make a difference, the further use may also make a difference in how it is initially prepared. And then there's personal taste: I like mine on the dryish side, the better to absorb sauce.

    I hope this gives you a range to discuss in your article. Where will the article be available?
     
  8. markv

    markv

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    Suzanne:

    Yes, I know there's no one right way. I was curious about the results poeople we're getting with other ways.

    The article will eventually be published in any one or more of the 17 or so newspapers/websites I write for, Chef Talk being one of them. Normally I am 2-3 month's ahead of my column so this one won't be published for a while but I'll be happy to let you know when it does.

    Mark
     
  9. pongi

    pongi

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    Although different couscous brands can differ, basically I'm with suzanne - 2:1 when I just rehydrate it, 1:1 when I steam it after rehydration. To my experience, this gives a better result as couscous turns out dryer and less sticky, but since this procedure is a bit time-consuming I generally choose the first option;)

    Pongi
     
  10. barths

    barths

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    [Re: Suzanne] I knew traditional couscous is very different from the kind commonly found in supermarkets (at least in the US), but I was under the impression that neither variety is 'pre-cooked.'  Are you sure that's the case?  It just seems odd to me -- I've never heard of any other pre-cooked and re-dried pasta product; I figured it was instant only because the grains are so small.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2010
  11. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Barths, almost all "instant" grain products are precooked, then redried, and sometimes processed in other ways as well. What makes them work is that you are merely rehydrating them, not actually cooking.

    Regular cous cous is made with a series of soakings and steamings, usually in a special cooking pot called a couscouserie. Imagine a double boiler, with each half having a pregnant-belly shape, and the bottom of the top half perforated like a strainer. It's a long, drawn-out process.

    Sizewise there is no difference between instant cous cous and the most generally used size in North Africa (although it actually is available, there, in a range of sizes). It is, as Suzanne noted seven years ago precooked----as is instant rice, instant oatmeal, etc.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2010
  12. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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  13. tylerm713

    tylerm713

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    Somebody had to dig to find this one.
     
  14. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Compare cooking time for acini de pepe to instant cous cous. you'll quickly realize it's not just about small size.
     
  15. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Somebody had to dig to find this one.

    Not necessarily, Tyler.

    What often happens is that somebody does a websearch, and one of our threads comes up. They link back to it, and get involved in the discussion without realizes how old it is.

    I'm sure that's what happened here.
     
  16. homemadecook

    homemadecook

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    For me, I also use the ratio of patch.  It is really good. /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif
     
  17. teamfat

    teamfat

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    The Israeli cous cous I've been using lately takes the same ratio as the way I cook white rice, 3 parts stuff to 5 parts water.  Similar cooking times and methods as well.

    mjb.
     
  18. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I always use Maroccan couscous. Comes in a very fine structure, medium or a little coarser. Precooked couscous is something I have never heard of! Polenta has a precooked version, don't know about couscous.

    There are 2 ways to cook couscous, but, the principle is that all grains need to separate from each other, so, the absorbed amount of water in it needs to be minimal;

    - most used method; always measure the couscous. You need only the same amount of boiling water or broth (1/1 ratio), pour over the dry couscous and immediately put a lid on, or, much better, cling film over the preparation. I always use a glass bowl and cover it with clingfilm. Do not stir and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. I usually let it sit for 30 minutes or more. You now have a brittle block of couscous. Put it in a large tray: I use a large lasagnetray. Pick up a handful of couscous at a time and roll it gently between your hands until the grains separate.

    Sprinkle some lemon juice and zeste over it, mix in with your fingertips. Add herbs and/or a softened micro-brunoise of fresh vegetables of your choice. Maroccan spicemix Ras-al-hanut seems to be a must. Sprinkle a generous amount of good olive oil over it while mixing in with your fingertops. Reheat if you want. I reheat at 80°C in the oven, in the same lasagnetray, covered with clingfilm! Works perfectly!

    - traditional method; a couscoussière is nothing else than a large pot with a steaminsert on top. In the lower pot would be a nice stew simmering with lambshank or leg and vegetables. You can do it with a bamboo insert on a cooking pot if you like. This time the couscous needs to be washed and soaked for a few minutes. Put a mousselincloth or cheesecloth in the insert and put the couscous in it. Steam for a few minutes, get it out, pour on a tray, roll between your hands while hot, add olive oil and keep rolling to separate the grains. Steam again, roll again. Most do this 3 times.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010
  19. tylerm713

    tylerm713

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    Don't get me wrong. I think it's great this thread has sprung back to life. I think couscous is one of the more underrated and misunderstood items of the culinary world.
     
  20. french fries

    french fries

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    The pot is called a couscoussier. A couscousserie would mean a restaurant where one can eat couscous, although I've never heard that word. Soaking is not necessary when preparing couscous, and the process is not that drawn-out when you're making a couscous, since the grain cooks on top of (and as the same time as) the broth. It is, however, obviously longer than making instant couscous, as you'll have to take the grain off the couscoussier and separate it with your hands a few times (2 or 3 should be all that's needed).

    The ratio of water depends on the use. For a couscous, you'll want the grain to be pretty "al dente". That way it'll soak up more broth when you pour it over the grain in your plate.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010