Cous cous is the fine cracked wheat that when steamed swells up like rice. In its original form it takes quite a long time to cook, but almost all the cous cous you buy in Britain these days, and it's extremely widely available not only in health food stores but also supermarkets, is already pre-cooked and therefore takes no more than 20-30 minutes. The sauces or stews that go with the cous cous are as varied as there are cooks in North Africa, but in Algeria they particularly favour sauces coloured and tasting of tomatoes, and are also fond of chicken rather than lamb as the main meat.



1 chicken, cut into portions
4ozs cooked chick peas (tinned are easiest)
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
2 carrots
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1oz chopped parsley
12ozs cous cous
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper


Peel and trim the vegetables. Fry the chicken pieces in half the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the sliced onion and the chopped garlic, the tomato purée and enough water just to cover the chicken. Season generously and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the cooked chick peas, the carrots, cut into batons (lengthwise into quarters), and the tomatoes, cut into 8 pieces each. Mix the cous cous with its own volume of water and the remaining olive oil. Stir it and leave it to swell up for about 15 minutes. To cook: place it in a colander or sieve over a pan of boiling water (traditionally its done over the stew but this can be hazardous), steam for 20-25 minutes until swollen and cooked through.

To serve: stir a knob of butter into the cous cous and pile in a ring around a large dish. Spoon the chicken and vegetables into the centre of the dish and pass the sauce separately. It can have a little chilli added to give it extra pungency.