The May Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by the incomparable Sawsan from chef in disguise. Sawsan challenged us to try our hands (literally!) at making maftoul - hand-rolled Palestinian couscous that is as versatile as it is tasty!
Did you read that? It said couscous. Our challenge was to make couscous.
What?? You can do that??
Well, according to Sawsan and this challenge, you certainly can!
The key ingredient, which makes the core of the coucouc, is ground bulgur. I couldn't find that, but I did find bulghur wheat grains, which is, as far as I know, the same thing, just not ground.
But I can handle that part.
Making the couscous (maftoul), requires only the ground bulgur, salt water, and a combination of flours (half all purpose, half whole wheat).
The process involves wetting the bulgur and building it up with the flour by swirling things with your fingertips, adding water and flour alternately.
It sounds complicated, and it's a bit confusing, but it makes sense once you get started. And after a few iterations, believe it or not, it actually starts working!
Now, my maftoul granules weren't as consistent or nicely shaped as many others' who shared their results on the forum, but they weren't too shabby, especially for a first effort!
I had a little trouble steaming them, too, because I don't have a good pot/colander setup (there is a traditional couscous pot that is used for this, with a colander type top over a larger pot, double boiler style), so it needed a little extra help after it's initial steaming.
So I chose to cook it further and turn it into a side dish with our chicken dinner inspired by a Lebanese rice and lentil dish called mujadara. Lots of caramelized onions, lots of yummy spices and...
Yum! The further cooking of the maftoul was exactly what it needed, and the resulting dish was super yummy.
I definitely want to try this again - I feel like trying it once and reading about other peoples' experiences on the forums will definitely help to make my next effort a bit more successful.
Sawsan, you are awesome and I am so amazed by what you do. Thank you for this super challenging challenge.
To see the full challenge as Sawsan presented it to us, check it out here.
And to see the impressive results of the other Daring Cooks, check them out here.
(from the Daring Cooks' Challenge)
1 cup fine bulgur (I found bulghur wheat, which I ground myself)
1 tablespoon salt
2-3 cups water
4 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour
Add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve the salt (I usually do this in a measuring cup for easy pouring) set aside.
Mix the whole wheat and all-purpose flour in a separate bowl, set aside.
Add 1/4 cup of water to the bulgur. Rub the water into the bulgur with your finger tips just enough to moisten the bulgur granules to allow the flour to stick to them.
Sprinkle the bulgur over the bottom of a wide tray, pan or large bowl. (You want something large, with a rim and a flat base)
Sprinkle half a cup of the mixed-flour over the bulgur.
With your finger tips start swirling the bulgur granules in a circular motion. The aim is to evenly coat the bulgur granules with flour. Keep swirling until all the flour is taken up by the bulgur. If you get any big clumps, break them down by gently rubbing them between your finger tips.
Collect the bulgur to one side of the pan.
Pour 1/4 cup of water in the empty side.
Use the circular swirling motion again to wet the bulgur granules.
Sprinkle another half a cup of flour and swirl using your finger-tips again. You will notice that the maftoul granules will start to grow in size.
Repeat the steps of wetting the bulgur granules, rolling, sprinkle with flour, and rolling again until the maftoul granules are the size you want them to be.
Please note that the water and flour amounts provided in the recipe are for guidance, you may need more or less depending on how big you roll your maftoul pearls
Cooking the maftoul
There is a traditional couscous pot that is generally used to steam the maftoul. 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.
I don't have one of these (nor does our host, who makes this quite often with amazing results). Instead, 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
To steam the maftoul, you will need:
1 stick of cinnamon (optional)
5 cardamom pods (optional)
10 all-spice pods (optional)
2 bay leaves (optional)
In the bottom part of the couscous pan (or in a pot) add 2 inches of water.
Add the spices to the water (if you are using them) 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. Do not cover.
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 1/4 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. (My bulghar was darker, so the color was different from this, but it did change!)
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.