Couscousi Tunisie (Vegetarian) with Slata Tunisie

Vegetable Couscous with Tunisian Salad

Allow 40 – 45 minutes to cook (slightly longer for lamb)
Feeds upwards of 15 or 20 people (with one kilo of couscous)
See footnotes at end of recipes. Footnotes indicated like this (2).

Ingredients (with transliterated Arabic)

khodra (vegetables)
• (Just a bit) psal (green onion)
• ½ kromp (cabbage)
• 2 batata (potatoes)
• 3 sfineria (carrots)
• 2 or 3 lift (turnip)
• 4 cups fool (fava beans)
• 3 to 5 fil fil (green sweet and slightly spicy pepper)
• 6 or 7 cups selk (“spinach-beet,” perhaps the greens of the beet)
1 kilo couscousi (dry couscous)
zeet zeetouna (olive oil)
• melh (salt)
• harissa Arabi (a special type of spicy harissa paste used only in cooking)
• fil fil akhmar (paprika)
• tebil (similar to curry powder)
• black pepper

Directions (see footnotes as well)

1. Mix a few (2-3) tbs. of oil and about ½ cup of water into the dry couscous and put aside for later.
2. Heat approximately 6 tbs. of oil in the makfool (lower pot of the two-piece steamer) and add the chopped green onion and cook until translucent. Use more oil if you have a lot of onion in the pan.
3. Add 3 tbs. of tomato paste diluted with ½ cup of water. You can dilute the paste before adding to the pan or after, either way works fine.
4. Slit the green peppers (to let the juices in and out) and pan-fry them until they are slightly tender, and slightly wrinkly. Keep them in there for a little longer.
5. Add approximately 1/2 tbs. of the harissa Arabi paste to your liking. Stick to even less for shwaya har (a little spicy) or lean more towards 1 or 1½ tbs. for true Tunisian style, har (spicy).
6. Add a large pinch of paprika, a pinch of black pepper (2).
7. Add approximately 5 cups of water
8. (for meat…) (3)
9. Now would be a good time to remove the slightly wrinkled and shiny green peppers.
10. Turn up the gas a bit
11. Add the 4 (or so) cups of fava beans
12. Add the beet greens (chop them fine and use a lot. They will cook down a lot)
13. Add the rest of the vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips, or whatever else you have lying around the house) (4)
14. Wait a little bit and then add the cabbage
15. Once you have everything bubbling below in a good simmer, put the slightly dampened couscous that you put aside before in the kis kes (top steaming section of the pot). Don’t put the lid on, but just let the steam from the sauce and veggies below permeate the grains filling them with the flavors of the stew below.
16. Stir the couscous occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t clump.
17. Everything is done when the veggies are soft and the couscous is tender but not mushy.
18. Place the couscous in one large bowl and pour some of the sauce over the top. Next, leave the veggies (or veggies and meat) on the top. Don’t forget to add the green peppers as well. Leave the remainder of the sauce to the side where each can add as much or as little as they would like. Some like their couscous soupy with sauce and other like it drier.

The Salad described below (Slata Tunisie) is a typical one here, but one of several popular versions including a radish salad and the standard slata mishwaya (pureed grilled green pepper salad).

Peel and chop finely several faqous (cucumbers), the stiffer the better and combine with several seeded and diced fresh tomatom (tomatoes). The dressing is olive oil, white wine vinegar, salad herbs, a touch of salt, and a little chopped fresh mint. Mix everything together thoroughly.
Serving suggestion — looks great with a sprig of mint to the side.

For radish salad (popular with my family) use finely chopped radish, a little green onion, olive oil, a little bit of lemon juice, and quite a bit of chopped parsley.

The standard green salad here includes lettuce (that takes a lot of washing), tomato, and bis bes (fennel that tastes like amazingly delicious celery) with an olive oil and lemon salad dressing. (5)


(1) See additions concerning ham (meat / lamb), jej (chicken), and hoot (fish).

(2) For ham or jej, add a good helping of tebil (sort of like curry powder) and more black pepper. For hoot, use cumin instead of curry or black pepper.

(3) This is when one would add fish (for only ten minutes and then remove) or chicken (for about 45 minutes) or lamb (for upwards of an hour).

(4) Couscousi is a “throw-it-in-the-pot” type of dish. It’s typical for it to be slightly different every time and you can put “everything but the kitchen sink” in there; it’s hard to go wrong.

(5) Bis Bes is also eaten as a snack of after a meal to cleanse the palate and help with healthy digestion. I could snack on the stuff all day if I had the chance. It is carted to corner fruit and veggie stands and weekly markets in the backs of pick-up trucks and the piles and piles of it are held in place by huge nets. Also make sure to not use the outer-most layers and wash thoroughly with a scrubber or steel wool. Some families have been known to wash their vegetables in bleach. This is frightening and should be avoided…

1 Comment

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One response to “Couscousi Tunisie (Vegetarian) with Slata Tunisie

  1. Pingback: Friday is Food Day: Tunisian Couscous « Ditch the Umbrella

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