Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Couscous, typical French food

Maybe some of you will be surprised to see couscous, a traditional dish from North Africa, be called typical French food... but really, it is! France has a strong connection to the former French colonies in North Africa and some of their cuisine has made it for good in France. Making a real homemade couscous takes a lot of time so it is a good restaurant meal choice. It is also one of my very favourite meals during winter time. True comfort food!

Today we had lunch at the Couscousserie in Dax, a restaurant with Tunisian specialties. We both ordered a Royal Couscous, which is the evident choice if you have troubles making your mind up. Instead of taking chicken OR merguez OR lamb OR meatballs OR beef ... you just have it all. (The only problem is that we will now skip dinner, but it was SO worth it).

The couscous is served with a spicy aromatic vegetable stew and one or more pieces of meat. Usually harissa, a very hot red chilli paste, is served on the side. Use with caution if you want a hotter meal! I absolutely love couscous, so that is usually what I order, but another traditional dish to try out is the tajine. It is cooked and served in a heavy clay dish made of two parts, a plate and a cone on top. The meat stew is steamed and comes out so tender it falls apart. Hundreds of versions exist.

Moroccan tajine

Otherwise try the harira soup, a Moroccan dish which is just to die for! Tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas and some meat, but it is all in the spices and herbs.. coriander, parsley, ginger, saffron... The photo does not do justice to the goodness of this soup!

The traditional drink after a meal is mint tea. It is served from a tea pot with a long curving serving spout, to pour the tea from a height. Try the desserts if you have an extremely sweet tooth... too much sugar to me!

The restaurants are usually colourful with a cloth covering the ceiling and decorations with cosy lights and mosaics. Not always very tasteful, but it sure makes you feel like you made a journey just stepping into the restaurant. Sometimes you sit by very low tables with crossed legs. The pictures are from the Couscousserie. Maybe not the cosiest one, but the food is excellent.

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