Planet Food Sicily: Fish Couscous

Sicilian-fish-couscous

Traditionally this dish was prepared with durum wheat bran which was ground to the consistency of a roughly-ground flour, typical of the type produced with primitive machinery, and then steamed.

In Trapani in Sicily, where this dish originated, the bran is prepared and steamed in a special type of saucepan with holes made from glazed terracotta. Every September at San Vito in the province of Trapani there is a traditional “cous-cous” festival where it is possible to taste this dish in all of its many variations.

Literally the word cous cous means “small pieces”, because couscous is made from tiny lumps made by working the bran in a special sloping sided terracotta bowl called “mafaradda”.

Ingredients (serves 6 people)

  • 500 g. rough bran
  • 500 g fine bran
  • 1 onion
  • 1 litre of slightly salted water
  • 1.5 kg of soup fish
  • 500 g of prawns, squid and mussels
  • Olive oil
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • a sprig of parsley
  • a pinch of cinnamon

 

Method:

  1. Pour the bran into a low terracotta casserole, sprinkle with the salted water and mix to form tiny lumps.
  2. Oil the tips of your fingers with the olive oil and continue to mix until the mixture begins to form small lumps.
  3. Pour the lumps onto a tea towel and leave them to dry.
  4. Delicately fry the garlic, onion and parsley in a terracotta casserole with the olive oil, add the chopped tomatoes and cinnamon. Cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Clean and slice the fish, the smaller the pieces, the better then add it to the sauce along with the mussels and seafood and cook for 40 minutes.
  6. Filter 1.5 l of broth, keeping the rest hot and pour it into a pan.
  7. Pour the bran lumps into the ‘mafaradda’, cover and place the bowl over the pan with the hot broth.
  8. Cook for two hours mixing every 30 minutes.
  9. Pour the cooked couscous onto the serving dish, garnish with the fish and season with the remaining broth.

Making-couscous