Moroccan Traditional Dishes: 7-Vegetable Couscous Recipe for Amazigh Yennayer (New Year) Celebrations

On 12th January 2020, Morocco’s Amazigh (Berber) population celebrates Yennayer, the first day of their ancient agrarian calendar. The traditional Moroccan dishes served as part of the Amazigh’s New Year celebrations are delicious so here’s a really tasty, spicy 7-vegetable couscous recipe to get you started…

Traditional Moroccan Dishes: 7-Vegetable Couscous Recipe

The following recipe uses the traditional method of steaming dry couscous in a couscoussier (or other large cooking vessel with steam basket), as this will produce a more “authentically Moroccan” result than commercially available “instant couscous”.

Preparing this dish involves numerous stages, so the instructions for making this vegetable couscous are necessarily quite complicated. To save space, however, we have listed all the ingredients you’ll need in Images 1-5. Although following this recipe is a somewhat laborious process, involving three separate steamings of the couscous itself, the result makes the effort worthwhile.

How to Make Traditional 7-Vegetable Couscous

Early preparations

The day before you wish to make your couscous place the dried chickpeas into a bowl of water and leave them to soak overnight.

On the Day

Wash and prepare your vegetables, then begin making the ‘tfaya’ (optional)  

  • Combine all your ‘tfaya’ ingredients (omitting the orange water) in a pot - a small one will do
  • Bring to boil and then cover and reduce to simmer over low to medium heat until the raisins and onions are tender and the liquid has reduced to a nice, thick syrup (approx. 30 to 60 minutes), stirring occasionally and adding a little more water during cooking if necessary.
  • Add a little orange flower water (optional) to taste
  • Keep warm

While your ‘tfaya’ is simmering, prepare an area where you can work with the couscous. Moroccans traditionally use a shallow, very wide mixing/serving dish known as a ‘gsaa’, but any wide bowl will do. Get your oil, salt, water & butter ready and lightly oil the couscoussier’s steamer basket.

Start Making Your Broth

  • Brown the beef or lamb together with the oil, tomatoes, onion and spices in the couscoussier’s base (over medium to high heat).
  • Carry on cooking uncovered, stirring frequently, until a rich, thick sauce starts forming (approx. 10-15 minutes)
  • Add the drained, soaked chickpeas, cilantro/parsley bouquet and around 3 quarts (around 3 litres) of water
  • Bring to the boil, cover and allow to cook for approximately 30 minutes over medium heat

You are now ready to start steaming your couscous.

1st Steaming

  • Drizzle ¼ of a cup of oil over your couscous.
  • Roll and toss the couscous (for a minute or so) between your hands to evenly distribute the oil, breaking up any clumps as you go
  • Add a cup of water and repeat the rolling/tossing process until everything is well blended and free of lumps
  • Carefully (so as not to compress it) place the couscous into the prepared (oiled) steamer basket
  • Place the steamer basket onto the couscoussier and steam for 15-20 minutes (timed from the moment steam first beings to appear above the couscous)
  • Return the couscous to your large dish (gsaa) and allow to cool

2nd Steaming

  • Once the couscous is cool enough for you to handle, add a cup of water and work it into the couscous as described for the first steaming adding the salt.
  • Add another cup of water and repeat the working-in process
  • Return the couscous (again avoiding compressing it) to the steamer basket
  • Add your cabbage, tomatoes, onions and, if using them, fava beans to the base of the pot, put the basket back onto the top and steam again for 20-30 minutes (timed as above)
  • Return the couscous to the serving dish (gsaa) and allow to cool

3rd Steaming

  • Add your carrots and turnips to the pot, cover and cook for 15 minutes
  • Meanwhile, work 2-3 cups of water (using only as much as is needed to leave the grains “al dente”) into the couscous, one at a time
  • Return half the couscous to the steamer basket (again without compressing it)
  • Add the squash/pumpkin, sweet potatoes (if desired) and zucchinis to the pot. If the water level has dropped below the vegetables, top it up to cover them again
  • Taste and, if necessary, add seasoning to achieve the desired slightly peppery/salty flavour
  • Return the basket to the top of the pot, cook until you see steam emerging above the couscous
  • Carefully add the remaining half of the couscous and steam until fluffy and light and the last vegetables added are cooked

To Serve Your Couscous

  • Return the couscous to the ‘gsaa’ and work in your butter
  • Add the (optional) ‘smen’ to your broth and mix in
  • Work a cup of the broth into the couscous, then arrange it in a shallow mound on a wide, deep serving dish into a
  • Make an indentation (large enough to accommodate the meat) and add the meat, topping it with the squash/pumpkin and cabbage
  • Using a slotted spoon, retrieve the remaining (larger) pieces of vegetables from the broth and place them around the meat
  • Garnish with your chickpeas, fava beans (if using) and the cilantro/parsley bouquet
  • Carefully drizzle several cups of your broth over the couscous and put the remaining broth into bowls to be served separately
  • Use the warm ‘tfaya’ as an additional garnish or serve separately as a side dish.

Et voilà – you’re ready to have a wonderful Yennayer meal! Bon appétit and a very happy 2020 from all of us here at Les Borjs de La Kasbah!

Recipe adapted from: