Handmade Couscous and Fresh Shelled Beans

As I was walking down the street at the local market, I heard the beans audibly call out to me. “Please buy me!” I’m not sure if it was the smog in the air or a momentary glimpse of clarity but at that moment a recipe seemed to download into my otherwise scattered brain. Instantly I knew what to cook and how to cook it. So I bought 2 kilos of beans and headed back to my muse, the kitchen, eager to accomplish the task before the clarity dissipated like a morning mist. Almost like a revelation I decided to make handmade couscous and to accompany it, an elegant version of a canned classic. Pork and beans. Listed below is what came into my little grey cells…

What you need for the couscous:

  • 1 cup coarse grain durum semolina
  • 1 cup fine grain durum semolina
  • 1 cup salted cold water (more or less as needed)
  • Drizzle of olive oil

What you need for the baked beans:

  • 1 kilo fresh beans (I used cranberry beans) you can substitute any type of dried beans (use only 500g of dried), making sure you soak them overnight
  • 200g prosciutto
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and rough chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 cans of whole tomatoes (liquid included)
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock (or 1-2 cube oxo)
  • 4 carrots, very finely diced
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano
  • Olive oil for browning

How the couscous is prepared:

  • Mix the two semolinas together in a bowl and set aside.
  • In the largest mixing bowl you place about a 1/3 of a cup of mixed semolina.
  • Add about a tbsp of water and with both hands using circular motions gently work in the water.
  • Slowly add more water a little at a time working it in with your hands until little balls start to form.
  • Essentially what happens is this: As you work the semolina and water in a circular motion, the smaller semolina particles adhere to the larger semolina particle and you are left with small little balls of couscous.
  • When you have achieved the right balance of moisture and size (this is just by feel…sorry) empty your newly made couscous onto a cookie sheet or roasting pan.
  • Add another 1/3 of a cup of semolina and repeat the process until you have used all of your semolina.
  • Let your newly made couscous sit for a few minutes.
  • Take your olive oil and drizzle a generous amount onto the couscous and work it in with your hands.
  • Let it sit until you have the beans ready to simmer.
  • If you do not have a couscousiere (which is like a double boiler with holes in it) you can use a large pot with a perforated steamer basket inside. My steamer basket’s hole were to big so I just lined it with cheese cloth and went from there.
  • Now if you don’t have either a couscousiere or a steamer you can place your couscous in a bowl, add boiling water using equal portions of couscous to water. Cover with a lid and in 10 mins fluff it up with a fork. Done, simple as that.
  • I recommend using a steamer. Place the beans in the bottom pot and prepare as outlined below. When the beans are ready to simmer, place the couscous in your cheesecloth lined steamer over the beans, cover tightly and steam for 15 min.
  • At this point remove your lid add a 1/3 cup of water to the couscous and fluff with a fork.
  • Replace the lid and steam for another 15 min.
  • Once again remove lid and add 1/3 cup water fluffing with a fork.
  • Replace the lid and steam for a final 15 min.
  • Tip out your couscous on a wide flat plate. Fluff it up with a fork.
  • Serve with the beans using your couscous to soak up the wonderful bean sauce.

How the beans are done:

  • In a little olive oil gently brown all your ingredients except for the stock and tomatoes.
  • Add the tomatoes and stock adjusting to cover all the ingredients with liquid.
  • Note: If using dried beans you may need to adjust cooking time before steaming the couscous.
  • If NOT making with couscous cover with lid and simmer for 45min.
  • If making with couscous place couscous in a steamer above the beans and simmer according to couscous instructions above.
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