Belboula with artichoke, onions, saffron and soaked almonds
Belboula is a kind of couscous made from barley instead of wheat. Mostly eaten by Moroccans and Tunisians. Its super nutty in taste and the grain has a nice bulky texture. I love it! This recipe is fairly classic with the raisins and onions, only the use of artichokes is very special and not classic at all. I came up with this recipe for a great couscous event in Marseille KoussKouss where i cooked with my Lebanese friends from Tawlet in Beirut and a wonderful bunch of Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian French ladies from Marseille. We had so much fun cooking for hundreds of people! Yalla…..
It also appeared in my Parool column in Dutch.
300 g of artichoke hearts (frozen, in Middle Eastern or Moroccan supermarkets)
200 g of white almonds
350 g belboula (barley couscous)
3 sweet onions
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of saffron
150 g sultana (yellow raisins)
Thaw the artichoke hearts. Soak the almonds in water for some hours : they will become white, tender and young again. Mix the belboula (barley couscous) with your hands with some water, mix thoroughly with your fingers (use some 150-200 ml of water). Leave to steep for a bit. Halve onions and cut finely. Chop the garlic. Slice finely the artichoke hearts. Fry the onions, garlic in the lower part of a couscoussiere* (or other big pan) in some olive oil on medium tot low heat for 5 minutes, add the artichokes and fry for another 15 minutes. Add the cinnamon, saffron and sultana’s and leave to cook another 5-10 minutes. Season well with salt and add 1-2 generous spoons of butter and some 500-750 ml of water. Put the barley couscous in the upper part of the couscoussiere (or in a wide sieve on top of the pan) and let steam for 15 minutes. Take out, put in a wide bowl and leave to cool a bit, mix with your hands (roll between your fingers) and put back in the upper part of couscoussiere. Steam another 10-15 min. Take out again and mix in some 3 spoons of butter (or argan oil or hazelnut oil or olive oil) and salt, rub between your fingers (the best part of making couscous is the rolling and rubbing of the grains between your fingers). Discard the water of the almonds. Serve the belboula with a generous spoon of the mixture and some sauce, sprinkle with the soaked almonds.
*a pan specifically made for steaming couscous in the upper part while making the sauce or broth in the lower part. You can find them in Moroccan supermarkets or buy online. Otherwise a big soup pan and a sieve will work, although might take a bit longer as the sieve is round in shape and not flate like the couscous sieve.