Couscous, history and recipes of a typical dish of Trapani

byVerónica Crocitti
couscous recipe

Where was couscous born and what are the Trapani recipes? History and tradition of an African dish… but not only.

When it comes tocous cous, the common imagination immediately focuses on North Africa, on its traditions, on all those foreign countries where it is believed that this delicious dish is among the most common. Actually, it's just a bad cliché! In fact, couscous has a very strong culinary tradition in our Italy too and, especially, in those sunny southern areas such as Sicily and itsTrapani.

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couscous recipe

Although the origin of couscous dates back to the African continent, and specifically to the northern and Maghreb areas, the very Italian city of Trapani has its place in its fascinating and tasty history. A story that, step by step, we are now trying to retrace.

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The history of couscous

Although it is difficult to establish exactly the origins of couscous (its millennial history seems to have its roots in the times of King Solomon, around 950 BC), it seems clear that it is strongly linked to a tradition deeply rooted infamily culture of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

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In these areas, it was eaten only in the evening in a large dish, unique for the whole table, from which the diners served themselves using only their hands. The story tells that, from Africa, couscous arrived in Sicily starting from the Arab domination and that it then spread massively in the nineteenth century, when the workers of the Trapani areas betweenSan Vito del Capo and Mazara del Vallo began to travel to the Tunisian coasts exporting culture and tradition.

Monte Cofano, Trapani - Sicily

Today couscous is a real flagship in the Sicilian tradition of Trapani, so much so that it is easy to find it both on the banned tables of San Vito lo Capo (there is a Festival) andon the virtual shelves of the online supermarket.

Differences between the couscous of Trapani and that of North Africa

Naturally there are differences between the couscous of Trapani and that of North Africa which, specifically, concern the cooking phase. For the dish of Sicilian origin, cooking takes place with steam, with fish oil and inside a particular terracotta container known ascouscoussiere(pot composed of two elements, one of which is designed to house the broth and the other dedicated to the semolina grains). The sections of the couscoussier are connected through a strip of pasta or, alternatively, a flap of wet linen and then ….

Cous cous from Trapani: the recipes

Among the typical couscous recipes, the Trapani one stands out for its taste and originality. The first step is to prepare the sauté. The basic ingredients (oil, onion, garlic and parsley) are gradually added tomato pulp, a bay leaf, fish chunks, fish oil, paprika, saffron and ground almonds. Everything should be cooked for about 20 minutes and adjusted with pepper and salt. At the same time the couscous is prepared in a casserole with oil andhot fish broth. Once the broth has been absorbed, the couscous should be shelled by hand and enriched with the initial sauce.

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