Sunday, 1 February 2015

Meal 12. Moroccan Couscous

Couscous is the first thing that comes to mind when Moroccan cooking is mentioned. That's why Fatiha decided to make it as a "typical Moroccan meal". But it turns out she doesn't even like couscous herself! She makes it three or four times a year, only when there are guests. Her own favorite meal is based on potatoes, so it seems she has adapted well to Dutch society (see Meal 1. Dutch andijviestamppot). We actually met as "integration buddies" about two years ago, a scheme organized by the Utrecht municipality. I was supposed to introduce her to Dutch society, I guess. But usually we just ended up drinking tea and chatting. The six months I had to integrate Fatiha have long since passed, but we still enjoy each other's company.
When I arrive, she tells me she had almost cancelled our date. Why? Some wire had short-circuited and there was no electricity on the ground floor of her house. And the guy who came to fix it was four hours late! So most of the day she had been walking around with candles.
Also, her oven is electric; so there will be no Moroccan cookies to go with the mint tea tonight...
The couscous is prepared the traditional way. This entails steaming it twice, with butter or oil added. In the photo you can see the special couscous pan, behind the pan with pumpkin. The whole dish consists of plenty of couscous, potatoes, pumpkin, carrot, tomato, onions, chickpeas, chicken wings and cilantro to taste.
Adding potatoes is actually not that common in Morocco, but Fatiha's mother did it as well, so we can call this a "traditional" dish...
Above right you can see Fatiha's youngest daughter, Miryam, posing next to the finished platter of couscous. Will she be preparing the same meal in 10 years time? Quite possibly, though at the moment her main concerns are playing with her baby brother and jumping off the couch in creative ways. Fatiha is planning on letting her follow gymnastics classes to focus her energy. This might mean cartwheels and handstands in the living room in the future! Osama, Miryam's 9-year-old brother, has already taken to playing soccer inside. He's a big fan of Ibrahim Afellay, a very succesful Dutch/Moroccan soccer player for PSV. After dinner, there's an interview with this 19-year-old wonder boy on TV. I'm mostly impressed with the amount of gel he manages to put into his curls, but also by how far he has come for a boy his age.
Osama tells me Ibrahim lives right around the corner from his aunt, here in Utrecht. A local role model.
Fatiha's husband, Azzedine, is working late tonight; he's a bus driver. And a good cook as well. A few months ago he made a great meal for us with fried fish, shrimp and mussels. But according to Fatiha, there is one problem with having him be the cook: he doesn't clean up the kitchen afterwards! I have to say; my mother complains about my dad doing exactly the same thing...
After dinner, we have some fruit. Fatiha has bought 3 kilos of oranges, because her youngest son, Adam, really likes the taste of them. But the whole family will be going to Germany in a few days to visit Fatiha's parents, so they won't be able to finish all of it. She gives me some fruit to take home with me; a touching gesture she has made in the past as well. As if she wants to ensure that I will still get enough vitamins living my "student lifestyle"...

(The original post about this meal is from March 09, 2006 and if you can read Dutch, a local newspaper published an article about the blog and this particular meal, see below. Fatiha said afterwards acquaintances who read it approached her and said:"How come you don't like couscous?!")

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