Couscous, a dish beloved far beyond North Africa

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A Moroccan chef prepares a traditional couscous dish in a restaurant in the capital Rabat. (AFP)
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A Libyan family prepares to eat a freshly cooked traditional couscous dish, with lamb, onions, chickpeas, and pumpkin, in a home in the capital Tripoli. (AFP)
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A freshly prepared traditional couscous dish, with lamb, onions, chickpeas, and pumpkin, being served in a home in the Libyan capital Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Couscous, a dish beloved far beyond North Africa

PARIS: Couscous may be the signature dish of North Africa, but steaming plates of the stew-topped semolina are also served up in West Africa and around the Mediterranean.
Since 1998 the Italian island of Sicily has been the unlikely host of the couscous-making world championship known as Cous Cous Fest, which bills itself as a “festival of cultural integration.”
Each September chefs convene on Sicily, whose Mediterranean location opposite Tunisia has made it a cultural crossroads throughout history, battling to be crowned couscous king or queen.
Palestinian chefs George Suheil Srour and Elias Bassous won the competition last year, with a couscous topped with grilled sea bream, pomegranate and fennel crumble.
In France, from the mid-20th century an influx of North African laborers from colonial territories and French expats returning after decolonization helped popularise the dish.
But here too, couscous already had a history.
In his 1534 novel “Gargantua,” the French writer Francois Rabelais described banquets on tables featuring meats of all kinds, accompanied by soups and couscous.
The 1938 version of the Larousse Gastronomique, France’s hallowed food bible, featured an entire chapter on the dish.
Spain also has long been gobbling couscous, not least due to centuries of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula.
“From the 10th century durum wheat was cultivated in Spain and couscous landed on the tables of the working classes,” write Hadjira Mouhoub and Claudine Rabaa in their book “The Adventures Of Couscous.”
But the local aristocracy was rather partial too, they added — as related in the 13th-century cookbook “The Excellences of the Table,” by Andalusian gastronome Ibn Razin Al Tujibi.


Saudi food app is perfect recipe for people in need

Updated 19 May 2018
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Saudi food app is perfect recipe for people in need

JEDDAH: A Saudi relationship manager has designed a mobile app that allows food to be delivered to people in need, including Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon and Turkey.
Western region manager Fahad bin Thabit, 34, described his YummCloud app as a “sharing economy” platform.
After working with app developers from India, Ukraine and the US, Thabit launched the platform in late April with help from the US digital agency Ingic.
YummCloud was featured in US company news, such as Cision PRWeb.
“The idea behind YummCloud was to provide home-cooked meals to the users in the most convenient way,” Cision PRWeb said.
“Developers were told to develop an open platform app that will let users buy, sell or send home-cooked meals around them. All a user has to do is to choose the food they would like to eat and get it delivered at their convenience.”
Thabit said that his brother, who lives in France, was the inadvertent inspiration behind the app.
“At that time I wanted to send him food and that was when I had the idea: Why can’t I send him local food?
“I could not find any of our local food there, and this was how the application came up. I said once I can do that, I can send food to anyone anywhere in the world — all I need to do is provide the supplier,” Thabit told Arab News.
Anyone can help communities in need via the application, he said.
Thabit said he was planning to help Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“We call these meals ‘humanitarian meals’ — all we need to do is reach them via a social network and get a supplier there. People who sympathize with the refugees — they could be 100 kilometers away or in different parts of the world — can pay online and buy meals for them.”
He said whole communities could take part in the “sharing economy.”
“For example, in Africa, there are areas that have people suffering from starvation, but there are other areas that have food supplies, so if you buy the supplies from those areas, they can import them to the starvation-stricken areas. This is what I call a sharing economy.”
The app’s international features are still under development, but are expected to launch in two years.
“We can create a market anywhere in the world. All we need to do is add a language, find a delivery company there, and if there isn’t one, people can deliver it themselves.
“We had 500 orders in the first 10 days of the launch in Saudi Arabia.”
Thabit said that transportation network company Careem was acting as a logistics partner.
“Careem have us covered everywhere — it is operating in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Egypt. Wherever Careem is present, we are there regarding delivery,” he said.
Thabit said he had agreements with delivery companies and charities in different parts of the world for YummCloud’s global transition.
The application is an efficient humanitarian platform.
“We provide a platform for everyone to help everyone,” he said.