It's Friday today, the day of the Muslim Sabbath so that means 'in North African, it's 'Couscous Friday'. Families typically gather after the Friday Prayer to enjoy these soft fluffy pearls.
Couscous is a fine semolina pasta. In the United States and Europe there is a pre-steamed pre-cooked instant style of couscous and it normally comes in a package that has been by machines. You just need to do it pour boiling water over let it sit for a couple of minutes. That package version is fine don't get me wrong, but nothing beats the real traditional couscous. Couscous that has been made with hands, lovingly with care the old way for centuries. Traditional preparation of couscous begins by sprinkling water over durum semolina and rolling it around until the small pasta pellets form. The pellets are then air dried for days on massive sheets or rugs. Really a beautiful sight! The actually steaming of couscous is done in special pot called 'keskes' or couscoussiérie in French. These pots are easily found now online, but you can easily make your own keskes at home by placing a steamer insert or stainless colander over a pot with a lid.
Similar to the Western Christian tradition of Sunday dinner, Fridays are special in North African, or shall I say in Algeria where I live. Algerians traditionally gather around the table to share a massive communal platter of couscous following Friday prayers. From the smallest villages to the larger cities, you’ll find people gathering for a bowl of couscous. In fact, it’s so popular, a tradition so strong, that some restaurants don’t serve anything but couscous on Fridays. And why would they?!
North African cooks have a very particular way of preparing couscous, involving an elaborate ritual of moistening, steaming, more moistening, rolling with olive oil or smen (preserved butter), more steaming, more moistening, more steaming... A communal dish definitely worth making and eating with your beloved family and friends.
Typically eaten with the hands and tossed into little balls, it may be consumed with a bits vegetables, fruit or nuts. Couscous, rather mesfouf to me a good way to provide an easy and very economical dish for my family on Friday on the day I would prefer to leave time for worship and my family. While the traditional steaming of couscous is somewhat time intensive, it's not demanding I think.
Mesfouf is a specialty couscous dish served on special occasions like Ramadan, weddings and engagements. But we can eat all year long. There are different types of mesfouf including one with pea; fava beans and peas; oranges; pumpkin; dates and nuts; raisins or sultanas or the mega-special mesfouf called Seffa which has wide array of goodies on it. . But my all time favourite addition is the Mesfouf of Fall and Winter prepared in eastern Algeria and Tunisia with one of my all-time favorite (Sunnah) fruits ... the ruby red jewels of the pomegranate.”Wherein is fruit, the date palm and pomegranate .Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that ye deny?”- Quran
Pomegranate is one of the Sunnah fruits which in the holy Quran says is "one of the fruits of the people of heaven"(along with dates). Poms have the most antioxidant properties of all fruits known (its effects would be superior to those of green tea). It's benefits are so numerous it would literally take a book to explain them.
Poms help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood, atherosclerosis, blood pressure and so prevent cardiovascular disease. It would also reduce the onset and rate of progression of prostate, breast, and even colon cancer. This effect could also be explained by its anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties.
Also due to the presence of antioxidants, regular use of pomegranate could protect against aging-related neurological disorders, including memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.
The pomegranate would also be useful in preventing influenza and fighting coughs due to the presence of large amounts of vitamin B6 - which strengthens the immune system -, the anti-inflammatory effects of antioxidants, and the antibacterial and antiviral actions of tannins present in the juice.
Pomegranate juice has also been proven to help treat and prevent urinary infections, similarly like cranberries. The consumption of pomegranate juice also has been shown to lead to a lower risk of infectiousness and a decrease in inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases.
Pomegranates are also full of folic acid, where is needed for the development of the fetus' brain during pregnancy. Pomegranate as a beautiful food that should not be taken for granted. It's jam-packed with an array of benefits but more so blessings.
↠↠↠ You will need a couscoussiérie (as pictured above) or you can make a makeshift couscoussiérieby using a large dutch oven and a metal steamer basket placed over it.
๑۞๑ Mesfouf bel romen contains gluten, but you easily use a gluten-free couscous making this dish gluten-free. At this time, there is no gluten-free yeast version.