…It’s a lie, this recipe. A little. Not the recipe itself. Not even the finished plate. But sometimes… functional shortcuts become habit. Sometimes that’s damaging over time, like, say, when you get used to pushing a button and having a ‘schluuuuyup’ non-dairy white chemical seductive cream-like oooze waddle its way over and onto your ice-cream, banana, directly into your mouth – we’ve all done that – or even… other… parts (we’ve all done that, to. Well, most of us. I presume.) Next time – don’t do it. Take the time to make a real fresh whip. It makes such a difference. Even if you’re intending to put it on… certain parts.
But… I’ve never made real cuscus. Or Couscous. Or cous cous – what’s in a name? Or likely even ever eaten it. (For that, you’d likely have to go to Sicily, south of its north coast. Or Africa. Or have a southern Sicilian or North African who’s used to making the dish invite you over for dinner. Few restuarants will actually employ the time and labor to the real deal. Note – the Sardinian/Lebanese larger ‘pearl’ cus cus/ fregola pasta effectively has a — different philosophy beneath it despite the obvious similarities.) In case you’d like to see how the real deal is made:
… I use the pre-made stuff (10 min in the broth, not the par-boiled 5 min in a sack, which is bascially …awful.) Large grain though, always and only – and there are huge quality differences between brands and, still, very many of them. So ask your Lebanese or other southern mediterranean friends and click around to find a good one (I use a tiny organic brand which is the best I’ve found near where I live but it changes, the brand used, from place to place.) And one more lie: for this recipe, well, I use a pinch or two of, alas, powdered fish broth. I never use packaged meat or veg. broth, a bad habit let gone of… decades ago by now. But, well, I’m not in the habit of making fish broth and don’t live near the sea so, hey, it’s an understandable cheat. But it works well enough.
… and there are other ‘lies’ germane to the recipe. Ie, it began as a shrimp dish way back but has worked its way, with appropriate accompanying variations, to this more modest version (as bank accounts emptied and availability of quality ingredients changed.) Enough about lies…
Cuscus with Grilled Mackerel and Glazed Carrots
- 1 medium sized fresh mackerel …check its color, firmness, scent, etc.
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp more or less of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lemon rind grated …important: non-treated, edible skin
- 1 mug cous cous …in the cooking, it's 1 part pasta (cuscus) to 1, 1.2 parts liquid
- 1 handful flat leaf parsely
- 1 'finger' sized ginger root (avoid chinese) …works well a coarse-grind grating plane, then hand squeeze. If you make a fist turned down with your thumb out and the grated ginger in your palm, squeezing will make the juice flow out from the thumb.
- 2 pinches cinnamon
- 2-3 pinches good dried fish broth powder ..unless you madw some fish stock, in which case use it instead of the next ingredient:
- 1.2 -/+ same mug water or broth …you can keep the carrot-flavored water and use it
- 1-2 carrots
- 1-2 tbsp granulated suger …cane sugar works well. Honey even better.
- 1-2 squeezes lemon juice fresh, maybe with a little pulp
- 2 spring onions, legs and bulb ..if smallish, red even more, or 1 if large
- Plop a spoon of coarse salt into a thick iron pan, heat it up well, clean the fish of corse – important here: remove all the dark stuff in its interior lining the cavity. Most people don't like the slightly bitter-sea-water flavor it can bring. Scrap it off lightly with a knife. – then either slice it belly up in two halves to open it up or just keep it whole and lay it skin down into the heated, salted pan. And let it crackle and cook a few minutes on medium-high flame before turning it over if opened, maybe 4 minutes or so if left whole. You want the skin to crisp up nicely as it adds the peices will add a flavorful, tangy-fish bam now and then once mixed into the cuscus. Once both aides are crispy and the flesh cooked, remove. It's hard to overcook mackerel but a bit easier to undercook, the opposit of white fish so don't worry about the former. Wait until it cools, then remove the bones. Here again: all the bones you'll likley not get but on the mackerel, many of then aren't a problem. But make sure to get rid of the nastiest. And don't worry about some stray salt grains – the added bang-salinity works well in the dish. Set aside in a glass bowl. Decide on a larger ceramic or glass mixing-serving bowl for all the ingredients.
- …clean away the outer skin and tips, wash, cut into slices and shove them into boiling, lightly salted water until they've softened a bit but not too much, maybe 10-12 minutes. Then immediately out, into ice-cold water to stop the ccoking asap. Set aside – you can do them whenever. When it's getting time to make dinner, add a table spoon of sugar into a small pan, maybe a bit of water in back to heat up in another small pot. Once the sugar (or honey) starts to melt, in go the carrots peices, toss until well coated, maybe add a pinch or two of cinnamon, toss again, then a tiny bit of water, a tablespoon or 3, and toss until the fluid evapoates and carrots glaze-caramlize. You'll have to use your nose here – don't burn them but don't leave them whimpy either. Just before mixing it all together, into the main bowl.
- wash and chop just before mixing into the bowl
- as noted in the ingredeints, grate into a pulp and squeeze out the juice also directly into the mixing bowl
- see above. Grate with a plane directly into the bowl
- also chop and pour – into the main bowl. Imagine that.
- You can use the carrot water, a little more than one mug, and bring to boil with a pinch or 4 of good fish broth powder. When it boils…
- … you pour it into the heated cous cous. 1 mug, the same volume. With most brands, you'll want to lighly toast the cous cous grains in the cooking pan, maybe adding a few dribbles of ev, olive oil, then cover with the boiling broth-water, make sure you bring the combination to a boil, then off the heat, cover immediately and place on a back burner for 10 minutes or so, depends on the brand. Check then and fluff with a fork-spoon, taste for saltiness.
- …now mix all the ingredients together, olive oil to, in the main bowl and taste to adjust for salt, pepper and flavorings. If you want an 80's-ish aesthetic, spoon some of the cuscus into a bowl-container, pu a serving plate on top, then turn it around. You'll get a nice firm dome thing which you can decorate with a few chunks of fish maybe or add whatever, some daikon maybe, lime i suppose, ecc. A dribble of ev oil and it's good to go.