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Berkoukes ma Kabouya | Algerian Large Couscous Stew with Pumpkin

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

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Berkoukes, also called Aïch by the Berber peoples, is  a popular Algerian traditional dish.

Tradtionally the berkoukes grains were hand rolled and dried out at home, thankfully we can easily find them in super markets nowadays and enjoy this deliciously vibrant stew anytime we want. 

Berkoukes will bear different names and find different variations according to which region you visit. In west Algeri, in cities like Tlemcen, Sidi bel Abbes and Oran, more rich spices like Ras el Hanout are used, and Berkoukes is prepared on the occasion of certain celebrations, the Mouloud el Nabawi Charif, commemoration of the birth of the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him), which is coming up this Monday. 

There's also another variation prepared in the  Aurès Mountains, notably at Batna, a version called "Aïch el Har bel Queddid", where the grains of berkoukes are cooked in a a red sauce accompanied by spiced and meat salted  dried meat Quedid; It is a winter dish in the Aures.

Others add Klil (dried curd), Khlii (dried animal fat) and dhane (salted butter) as well as olive oil. The dish is typically Chaoui.

The Berkoukes is also known in Morocco under the name of Berkoukech and in Tunisia.

I love this dish very much in the older months. I like it spicy, I always add a spoonful of harissa. Here I have made berkoukes with my very own innovation, with Autumn spices and pumpkin. The pumpkin will give a slight note of sweetness to the dish and the spices work well with the harissa to round out the rich flavors.  This dish was really a treat for us, with a good homemade bread, khobz el zeitoun for example or kersa you can find in the bread category.

Please note, in the recipe I just chicken. I usually use a piece of chicken for each member of the family. But alternatively you can use leftover shredded chicken or use another type of meat like beef or even omit the meat altogether. 

Also please note the cooking time for the berkoukes varies slightly depending on the size and quality. In Algeria, the smaller version I've used is called m'hamsa. The larger grain would be labelled as berkoukes. And homemade cooks faster than factory made. If you can't berkoukes where you live, you easily subsitute Italian acini de pepe or pastina.

I hope you all try this out soon ...

Berkoukes ma Kabouya 

 A simple and earthy stew full of rich flavors prefect for chilly Autumn and Winter evenings.  

main dishes | serves about 4 - 6
COOK TIME: 30-35 min mins


‣ 1 large onion, grated
‣ Chicken with skin on ( I used 2 chicken dumbstick and 2 thighs)
‣ 2 medium sized tomatoes, grated
‣ 2 TBS chopped coriander and more for garnish
‣ 1 TBS tomato paste
‣ ½ tsp ground ginger
‣  2 tsp ras el hanout
‣ ½ tsp sweet paprika
‣ ½ tsp ground cinnamon
‣  Harissa, to taste
‣ Generous pinch of saffron
‣ 3  carrots, chopped
‣ 1 rib of celery, chopped OR handful of fresh celery leaves
‣ 250g - 2 cup raw pumpkin, cubed
‣ 2 medium potatoes, cubed
‣ 200gr -  3/4 cup precooked chickpeas, drained 
‣ 250g - 1  ½  cup berkoukes (also known as giant couscous or mhamsa)
‣ oil, salt, black pepper

  1. In a large pot, add the oil and brown the chicken. Once browned, add the onions Leave for 5 to 10 minutes to  sweat the onions. Stir occasionally.
  2. Add the  tomatoes,  coriander leaves, tomato paste, spices, salt and pepper.celery and the carrots in the casserole. Add 1 liter of water, (or to cover) bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover with a lid halfway and leave to simmer for 60 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked.
  3. Add the pumpkins, potatoes and the precooked chickpeas for an additional 15 - 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin and the potatoes are about to be cooked. 
  4. When ready to serve, add the berkoukes (and more water if needed, about a cup) in the pot and leave for 7 to 10 minutes or until the couscous is cooked. Depending on your type of berkoukes, the cooking time will vary. 
Garnish with chopped coriander and serve immediately.

    ⇝ If the berkoukes stew is not served straightaway, the couscous grains keep absorbing the water and the soup looses a significant amount of its the liquid. For this reason, I recommend adding the berkoukes in the casserole a few minutes before serving the soup and serving it immediately once cooked. If you want to serve it later, prepare the broth and add the berkoukes in before serving.

    If you have leftover Berkoukes, with the pellets already cooked in, you may need to add more water and adjust the seasoning.

    ⇝ For another interesting variation use another type of winter squash.


    ⇝ For another interesting variation use lamb instead of chicken. 

     CATEGORIES:   HEALTHIER, AUTUMN, winter, main dishes

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