This spicy tomato couscous recipe makes a super quick side and is full of flavour. Couscous cooks in minutes; its calories are lower than other grains, such as rice.
What is Couscous?
While we may think of it as a grain, couscous is more like pasta. Couscous is a North African foodstuff made from semolina flour. Semolina flour is the hardest part of durum wheat.
The type of couscous we find in supermarkets is quick to cook and can be cooked from start to finish in the same amount of time it takes to boil a kettle. To make this type of couscous, Semolina flour is rolled into small pellet-sized balls to produce this quick-cook couscous and then steamed in giant chamber pots. Traditionally, couscous is made by hand in local communities, but mechanical means make the bulk of supermarket couscous. The grains must be steamed slowly if your couscous is labelled as raw.
To cook couscous traditionally, North Africans steam the raw couscous in a kettle-shaped pot known as “couscousier” in French. It’s often cooked with stews, allowing the couscous to soak up the flavours of the meat and vegetables. Couscous, when cooked, should feel light and fluffy, not grainy. For perfect, pre-steamed couscous, use equal amounts of liquid to couscous.
Aleppo Pepper Flakes
This spicy tomato couscous recipe calls for Aleppo pepper flakes among an ingredient list of now common supermarket spices and seasonings. For those unfamiliar with Aleppo pepper flakes, they’re the dried flakes from the Aleppo pepper, also known as the Halaby pepper. Aleppo pepper in Turkish cuisine or recipes may also be called pul biber.
Aleppo chilli has a fruity-like flavour, often compared to raisins. However, it’s not as spicy as traditional chilli flakes, scoring around 10,000 SHU on the Scoville chilli scale. As a warning, the chillis are often dried with salt so that they can be a little salty, so take care when seasoning your final dish.
Inspiration for Cooking this Spicy Tomato Couscous
The inspiration for this spicy tomato couscous dish comes from the pilafs of Indian cooking to impart maximum flavour to the couscous. First, we’ll soften the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt before stirring in the spices and tomato paste. Here, the couscous must be mixed well with the spice mixture so it takes on the colour of the tomato paste. Cover with boiling vegetable stock, remove from the heat and cover for 2-3 minutes. Once cooked, the couscous will be fluffy and have absorbed all the liquid. Finish with fresh herbs and lemon.
Spicy Tomato Couscous
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- ½ Large Onion Diced
- Salt to taste
- 3 Garlic Cloves Finely Chopped
- 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
- 1 Tsp Ground Coriander
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 Tsp Aleppo Pepper Flakes
- 40 g Tomato Paste
- 200 g Couscous
- 200 ml Vegetable Stock Boiling
- Zest from ½ Lemon
- 10 g Fresh Parsley & Coriander
- Add olive oil to a pan on medium heat, and gently soften the onion with a pinch of salt and the cinnamon stick for 8-10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
- Add the spices and cook gently for 1-2 minutes to help bring out the flavour but not so long that they begin to scorch. Stir in the tomato puree.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the couscous. Mix the couscous with the spice mix well so that it takes on the colour and every grain has taken on the reddish hue.
- Add the boiling vegetable stock, season to taste with salt and cover tightly. Set aside for 2-3 minutes to cook. The couscous is cooked when it has absorbed all the liquid and has a fluffy, not grainy texture.
- Finish with lemon zest and fresh herbs. You can also sprinkle a few more Aleppo chilli flakes over the top if you wish.