For the month of May, it was my pleasure to host the Daring Cooks challenge
A year ago I hosted my first challenge, at the time, I chose cheese making because it is a wonderful skill to add to your repertoire. This time around I wanted to choose a challenge that represents my own heritage. Something Palestinian, something fun and tasty, something challenging but worth the trouble.
You may have come across the terms couscous, Moghrabiah or Maftoul. They may seem like tongue twisters at first but they are actually three variants of hand-rolled pasta that are versatile and tasty. What sets maftoul apart from couscous or moghrabieh is the size of the pasta granules. Couscous has the smallest granules (about 1 mm in diameter) while moghrabiah has the largest (about the size of chickpeas). Maftoul is middle ground between the two. Maftoul’s hand rolled tiny pasta pearls are 2-3 mm in diameter and they are made out of a mixture of whole wheat and all purpose flour rolled around a center of bulgur which gives it a nutty earthy note that is unique and a slightly deeper color.Couscous on the other hand is made out of pure white flour and it is rolled around a center of semolina giving it a lighter color and a more neutral taste.
For this challenge we will be making maftoul (also known as Palestinian couscous) from scratch.
The flour Maftoul is made using a mixture of whole wheat flour and all purpose flour, that gives you the best taste and the best texture. You can use whole wheat only but that will give your maftoul a slightly deeper color and you will probably require more water and end up with pearls that are less even.
Spice and onion infusion (Dafneh): Some areas in Palestine infuse their maftool with onion and spices. You can do that by adding a layer of chopped onions that have been rubbed with spices in the center of the maftoul while steaming. This is an optional step that you can skipped if you wish to use your maftoul in a sweet recipe or if you don’t like those flavors
Cooking the maftool
- For this stage a special instrument is used: the couscous pot. It consists of 2 parts on top of each other. The bottom part is a large pot and the top part is a colander that holds the couscous or maftoul. If you don’t have this instrument (I don’t), you can use a regular metal colander that fits over a large pot. Try to find a colander that fits your pot as closely as possible because you don’t want any steam to escape between the pot and colander
- 1 stick of cinnamon (optional)
- 5 cardamom pods(optional)
- 10 all spice pods(optional)
- 2 bay leaves(optional)
If you choose to make spice and onion infused maftool you will need
1 onion chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground dried corriander
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway
1/2 teaspoon all spice
- In the bottom part of the couscous pan (or in a pot) add 2 inches of water
- Add the spices to the water and bring the water to a boil
- Brush your steaming colander (or the top part of the couscous pan)with olive oil generously
- Place the maftoul in the colander and then place it on top of the pot with boiling water.Make sure that the bottom of the colander does not touch the water. If you notice steam escaping from the space between the edges of the colander and the pot, use a kitchen towel to seal the edges
If you wish to infuse your maftoul pearls with onions and spices
- Rub the spices into the chopped onion with your finger tips
- Place half the maftoul in the colander, add the onion and spices
- Top with the other half of the maftoul
- Leave the maftoul undisturbed for 5 minutes or until you see steam coming through
- Using a fork gently stir the maftoul in the colander
- Sprinkle ¼ cup of water over the couscous and continue to gently turn the maftoul bringing the steamed maftoul from the bottom to the top and allow the top granules to steam
- The total steaming time is around 15 minutes. The maftoul granules will change color from white to a light golden color
- Take the maftoul off the heat and empty it in a large pan, add a 1/4 cup of olive oil and gently toss the maftoul granules to coat them in olive oil and fluff them
- Allow the maftoul to cool down
- You can use it immediately, store it in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to three months