is Big in the Capital
Love Affair with Semolina
Bedaoui by Meera Freeman
has almost become a national dish in France. Perennially
popular, couscous is even offered in company cafeterias
where it enjoys more success than paella and pot roast.
Writer and epicurean George Sand, mistress of Frédéric
Chopin, is reputedly responsible for the first published
recipe of “kous-kous” around the time
of the French colonization of Algeria in the 19th
Before couscous was considered to be a main course
all on its own, the semolina grain was traditionally
served as a side dish in French households, prepared
with milk, honey, hard-boiled eggs, raisins, sugar
In the 1960s, with the onset of North African immigration
to France, couscous “à la française”
became a fixture in the French diet with the addition
of grilled kebabs, spicy merguez sausage and roasted
lamb. According to the traditional Algerian recipe,
couscous is prepared with turnips, chicken and fennel,
while couscous with tomatoes, potatoes and lamb is
associated with the Kabyle people from the mountainous
northern region of the country—Kabyls aren't
Arabs; they're an African Berber tribe.
affords chefs a great deal of freedom and room for
interpretation. Take Alain Passard of Arpège,
who serves Argan oil-scented semolina as an accompaniment
to his legendary vegetable dishes, or Damien Durand
Char-Bagh restaurant in Marrakech, Morocco, who
composes his successful lobster couscous from a saffron-infused
semolina with a fennel bisque.
Semolina adapts nicely to almost all kinds of sauces.
However, in better Parisian couscous restaurants,
the crowning glory is usually a very high quality
marga or broth, as well ras el hanout,
a fragrant blend of fine spices used to season meat.
Couscous has become such a staple in Parisian kitchens
that even some of the city’s Brazilian restaurants
serve cuscuz de milho, made with corn and
manioc flour. Even if its resemblance to North African
couscous is remote, "Brazilian couscous"
proves that this grain is growing in popularity the
couscous can be enjoyed at the following favorite
1, rue de la Boule-Rouge
01 47 70 43 90
Couscous with dried apricots and pumpkin is one of
the traditional Jewish-Tunisian specialties at this
family-style restaurant, where on Saturdays patrons
can indulge in a complete fish-based dinner.
11, rue Faidherbe
01 43 71 00 16
Fatema Hal’s celebrated Moroccan restaurant
is renowned for her ras el hanout, setting
her refined, exotic cooking far apart from the rest.
Maison de Charly
97, bd Gouvion-Saint-Cyr
01 45 74 34 62
This is by far the most generous Moroccan restaurant
in Paris where a 29 euro lunch menu includes aromatic
appetizers, fine couscous served with a delicious
broth and a variety of grilled and roasted meats.
Wally le Saharien
36, rue Rodier
01 42 85 51 90
Back in the 1970s, Wally Chouaki was the first to
introduce Parisians to couscous au naturel,
served plain without broth or vegetables.
10, bd Saint-Germain
01 46 33 86 98
Benjamin Eljaziri puts together a memorable tagine
made with lamb brain and mild garlic, accompanied
by excellent couscous with raisins, chick peas and
a very aromatic broth.
Season in Morocco: A Culinary Journey
Learn more about cooking the favorite foods of Morocco
from Meera Freeman, whose "thirty-year
love affair" with the country has culminated
in this effort, part travelogue, part cookbook. The
image of Couscous Bedaoui featured above was taken
from the book, which features a fine recipe for the
dish, as well as other couscous dishes.