Couscous is a food consisting of durum wheat semolina grains with an average size of one millimeter in diameter (after cooking). Couscous is also a traditional dish whose ingredients are vegetables, chickpeas, red meat, or chicken, sometimes only with milk, but its main ingredient is wheat semolina grains.
Couscous is typical in North African countries, such as the Middle Eastern nations, and has been part of their gastronomic tradition for over 600 years.
In Israel, couscous is very similar to Arabic couscous. However, its ingredients have small differences that make it unique in the world: we are talking about Israeli couscous.
In this post, we are going to take a look at what Israeli couscous is. You will also learn about its origins and how it differs from the original couscous. Finally, we will show you a delicious recipe with which you can prepare couscous with cranberries.
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What is Israeli couscous?
Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous, is a small wholemeal food made from bulgur wheat flour.
Israeli couscous has a slightly chewy texture, similar to barley, and a slightly salty taste because it is roasted during processing. However, like regular couscous and other whole grains, Israeli couscous has a mild flavor and should be prepared with seasonings, spices, sauces, or fresh herbs.
How was Israeli couscous invented?
Israeli couscous is a relatively recent addition to Israeli cuisine. It is a version of the maghrebiyya that was brought by North African Berbers and Jewish immigrants from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon who, during the 1950s, came to Israel from these areas, bringing their culinary customs with them.
These culinary customs were very useful after the Israeli War of Independence. Israel was short of staple foods such as rice, so David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, approached the Osem food company to produce an inexpensive and mass-produced substitute for rice. Osem started to produce a wheat flour-based food which became one of the best savior foods for the Israeli people.
Arab couscous vs Israeli couscous
Let’s know some differences between Arab and Israeli couscous.
Israeli couscous is made from bulgur wheat flour. This kind of flour is a type of wheat flour that is pre-cooked in cauldrons of water, and then it’s dried in the sun, crushed, sieved, dried again in the sun, and passed through a mill. Arab couscous, on the other hand, is made from wheat semolina: a coarse and lightly ground wheat flour.
In terms of size, Israeli couscous is pearl-shaped with a diameter of 6 mm, while traditional couscous is also pearly although smaller (1 mm in diameter).
Moreover, traditional couscous is cooked in a Maghrebi couscous cooker, a traditional pot where couscous is usually steamed with water or broth. Besides, Israeli couscous tends to be cooked in pots of water like pasta.
Although many people think that couscous is a type of cereal like rice, it is a type of pasta.
How many varieties of couscous are there?
Besides Israeli couscous, there also exist more kinds of couscous. Some of them are:
Among the types of couscous, this is the smallest variety and thanks to its size, it can be cooked very quickly and is ready in just a few minutes.
Finally, we find the Lebanese couscous which is also known as pearly couscous and is the least known although it is the biggest of all and for this reason, it is the one that takes the longest time to cook.
Israeli couscous with orange juice and cranberries
- Orange juice (1 tbsp).
- Olive oil (1 tbsp).
- Orange zest (1/2 tsp).
- Salt (1/4 tsp).
- Ground black pepper (a pinch).
- Butter (15 g).
- Israeli couscous (200g).
- Chicken stock (300 ml).
- Coarsely chopped dehydrated cranberries (1/4 cup).
- Roasted and coarsely chopped Almonds (60 g).
- Thinly sliced baby onions (2 onions).
- Mint sprigs (2 sprigs).
- In a bowl, mix the orange juice, olive oil, orange zest, salt, and pepper with a balloon.
- In a medium saucepan melt the butter, add the onions and couscous. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat, cover and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add cranberries, cover, and cook for another minute. Remove from heat.
- Add vinaigrette to couscous and toss to combine. Add almonds and mint, and mix.
- Serve and enjoy!