A New Way To Make Pearl Couscous With All The Middle East Flavors

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In Arab, North African countries, and Israel, the consumption of couscous is very common due to their similar traditions among those nations. In case you don’t know about it, couscous is a food consisting of medium-sized durum wheat semolina grains of approximately one millimeter in diameter, and is usually accompanied by vegetables, chickpeas, and meat. There is a version of couscous in Israel that is similar to that of its neighboring Arab countries, but has quite a different history: we are talking about pearl couscous.

A pasta in the shape and size of a grain of rice that emerged as an alternative to the food crisis in the Jewish country. In this post you will learn a little more about Middle Eastern cuisine as well as pearl couscous, where we will explain how it was created, its differences with the traditional couscous, and we will present you with a delicious recipe for making an authentic couscous.

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A Food That Everybody Loves In Israel

Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous, is a small, spherical-shaped food, very similar to a cereal or grain, made from bulgur wheat flour. This tiny pasta is characterized by a slightly chewy texture, similar to barley, and, being a toasted food, it has a pleasant taste. Like regular couscous and other cereals, pearl couscous has a fairly mild flavor and is not very strong when eaten alone. That is why it is usually prepared with condiments and sauces. Because this food is made from wheat flour, with the exception of the original couscous, Israeli couscous or ptitim has nothing in common with rice. This food is rather similar to Italian pasta.

How was Pearl Couscous Created?

Pearl couscous is a recent ingredient in Israeli cuisine. It was brought by the Berkukes from North Africa and Jewish immigrants during the 1950’s. It was the result of the transfer of gastronomic customs from these areas to Israel. This immigration of Berkukes and Jews contributed to solving a food crisis in Israel during those years. In the year mentioned above, Israel had a shortage of staple foods such as rice and the Prime Minister of Israel asked the Osem company to make an inexpensive, mass-produced rice substitute. With wheat as raw material and great ideas, this food materialized.

Differences Between Traditional Couscous and Pearl Couscous

Pearl couscous is made from bulgur wheat flour, not semola. This flour is a type of wheat flour pre-cooked in cauldrons with water that is then sun-dried, pounded, sifted and dried for second time, which is then ground into flour. Traditional couscous, however, is made from a coarse, almost unground wheat semolina flour. Another difference is that while traditional couscous is pearly and about 1 mm in diameter, pearl couscous tends to be larger.

Also, both types of couscous have differences about their cooking process. While traditional couscous is cooked in a couscous cooker, pearl couscous is cooked in pots with water just like pasta. However, due to the confusion over pearl couscous, there are some differences of opinion regarding the correct way to cook the pearl-shaped balls and whether to treat them as a grain or a pasta. Many recipes call for cooking it in a pot of boiling water until tender and draining it as pasta; some cooks combine it with boiling broth and let it stand; others cook it as rice. During its preparation, pearl couscous is toasted, unlike traditional couscous. This roasting process gives it a slight nutty flavor and its characteristic texture.

Nutritional Values of Pearl Couscous

In terms of nutritional value, it is not very different from conventional pasta. Boiled ptitim have about 340 kcal per 100 grams. Being based on flour, it is rich in carbohydrates. It contents B vitamins, vitamin PP, minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, silicon, copper, cobalt, and molybdenum. Also, pearl couscous’ content of copper and manganese involves directly in metabolism and hematopoiesis. These mineral elements improve the nervous system and strengthen the immune system.

The Best Pearl Couscous Recipe You’ll Ever Find

Here’s a recipe for a delicious pearl couscous with vegetables and nuts: a blend of flavors will allow you to experience the best of Israel and Arabic cuisine.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pounds of pearl couscous
  • 18 oz (0.68 kg) of vegetable broth, approx
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (3 oz (0.11 kg))
  • 150 gr. pumpkin (5.5 oz (0.21 kg))
  • 1 tbsp. Vegetable margarine
  • 1 tsp. Of hot paprika
  • 1 oz (37.8 g) of dried apricots
  • 1 oz (37.8 g) of raisins
  • 3/4 oz of almonds and walnuts
  • 3 pitted dates (optional)
  • Fresh chives
  • Fresh cilantro or parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Preparation:

  1. Chop the almonds, apricots, walnuts, dates, and vegetables into small pieces.
  2. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a pot or tajine and fry a clove of chopped garlic.
  3. Before it takes color, add the onion, the pumpkin, and the red bell pepper in small pieces with salt and pepper. Fry for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add a spoonful of vegetable margarine and continue frying until the onion is well poached.
  5. Add the nuts and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add a teaspoon of hot paprika and fry for a few seconds without burning, before adding the pearl couscous to fry for a couple of minutes with the vegetables and the finely chopped chives.
  7. Pour the vegetable broth and cook for 12-15 minutes until the couscous is tender and has absorbed the broth. If it is still hard, add a little more broth and continue cooking.
  8. Let it rest for a couple of minutes and serve with fresh cilantro or parsley on top.

Suggestions: You can add chicken or lamb to the sofrito at the beginning and cook it with chicken broth if you prefer another version.

Pearl Couscous Recipe

A delicious pearl couscous with vegetables and nuts: a blend of flavors will allow you to experience the best of Israel and Arabic cuisine.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Resting Time10 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Arabic cuisine, World
Servings: 4 Serves

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Pound Pearl Couscous
  • 18 oz Vegetable Broth approx
  • 1/2 Large Onion
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
  • 150 gm Pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable margarine
  • 1 tsp Hot Paprika
  • 1 oz Dried Apricots
  • 1 oz Raisins
  • 3/4 oz Almonds and Walnuts
  • 3 Pitted Dates Optional
  • Fresh Chives
  • Fresh Cilantro or Parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper & Salt

Instructions

  • Chop the almonds, apricots, walnuts, dates, and vegetables into small pieces.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a pot or tajine and fry a clove of chopped garlic.
  • Before it takes color, add the onion, the pumpkin, and the red bell pepper in small pieces with salt and pepper. Fry for about 5 minutes.
  • Add a spoonful of vegetable margarine and continue frying until the onion is well poached.
  • Add the nuts and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  • Add a teaspoon of hot paprika and fry for a few seconds without burning, before adding the pearl couscous to fry for a couple of minutes with the vegetables and the finely chopped chives.
  • Pour the vegetable broth and cook for 12-15 minutes until the couscous is tender and has absorbed the broth. If it is still hard, add a little more broth and continue cooking.
  • Let it rest for a couple of minutes and serve with fresh cilantro or parsley on top.

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