To paraphrase Adam Ant, “Couscous is nothing to be scared of!”  Yet it’s amazing how many of us will happily eat it in a restaurant or buy the readymade packs in the store thinking that it must be difficult to make at home. Well actually knowing how to cook couscous is super easy. In fact I wouldn’t even call it cooking; it’s so easy to do. I’ll prove it!

Couscous Is Like Pasta...

Plate of couscousCredit: you think of couscous as a type of pasta or rice would that make it less scary? Actually it’s even easier than either of those two things to cook although it is a food that is somewhere between the two.  It is usually made with durum wheat (just like good pasta) or even semolina grains. It is then rolled and coated in wheat flour which gives cous cous its unique look and texture.

Couscous can be eaten either hot or cold but will need to be cooked first whichever way you choose to serve it.

No Mess No Fuss Method

So how do we cook couscous? By far the simplest and easiest method involves a bowl, a large plate and some boiling water. A fork to fluff it all up at the end of the process is a good idea too.

Now I should point out at this stage that this method works with the kind of quick cook couscous that is the most readily available in US and UK stores. Traditional couscous needs soaking for a long time first, so if you have that stuff get it soaking overnight before you start. However, most of what you will find on the shelves will be the quick cook variety.

Plain couscousCredit: would usually measure out around ½ cup for each person and put this dry couscous into a bowl – a large cereal bowl will even do if there are only two of you. Basically you need to make sure there is room in whichever bowl you choose for the couscous to expand.

Put the kettle on to boil up some water and pour it over the couscous. This isn’t hugely scientific and will depend on the kind of bowl you are using but usually pour enough water over so that the couscous is covered and above the grains by around 1/3 inch (1 cm). If you are using a shallow bowl then you won’t need quite as much as this.Cooked couscousCredit:

It is best to pour on a lesser amount if you aren’t sure as you can always add some on. You can’t take it away and soggy couscous is fairly yuck.

Now cover the bowl with a large plate – this helps to keep the steam in to cook the couscous, and keeps it warm until you are ready to use it too.

Check and Fluff

Couscous with roasted vegetablesCredit: after 5 minutes and give it a stir, adding any water if you think it needs it -- dried couscous is not pleasant but a drop more water should sort that out. Do not worry if the couscous grains still look a little wet, they will absorb the water eventually.

Check after another 3-5 minutes and you should find your couscous is expanded and has sucked up all the water. Use your fork to fluff up the couscous and that is the basic method complete.

If you wish you can add butter or olive oil as you fluff up the grains too.

This goes well with most things you would usually eat with rice, or you can use it as the base for a salad, kebabs or roasted vegetables. There are of course other more flavorful ways you can cook couscous.

Making Couscous More Interesting

Instead of using water to cook your couscous in, why not add a vegetable stock instead. A pinch of cinnamon always add a touch of traditional Moroccan flavor too, as does adding chopped nuts and dried fruits – slivered almonds and sultanas or raisins are a great combination to try.Couscous with almonds and sultanasCredit: Instead of using water to cook your cous cous in, why not add a vegetable stock instead. A pinch of cinnamon always add a touch of traditional Moroccan flavor too, as does adding chopped nuts and dried fruits – slivered almonds and sultanas or raisins a

Roasted or fried vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms and zucchini (courgettes) are all wonderful bedfellows to stir through your cooked couscous and can even be eaten cold – great for a picnic or a side dish at a barbeque.

You can also try using couscous as a crust when cooking things such as salmon or lamb chops – add some herbs and oil before coating the outside of the fish or meat.

Now you know how to cook couscous you needn’t be limited to using it just in savory dishes either. Mix your cooked couscous with some butter and sugar along with some dried fruits, press into a ramekin and cook. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or make a thin lemon icing to drizzle over the top – delicious!

If you run into any problems with your couscous then please drop a comment below and I'll do my best to help.