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Couscous is growing in popularity in the UK as a quick, easy to cook, tasty, nutritious dish.


But what has become an everyday food here has origins in Africa going back hundreds of years.


In fact, according to North African folklore, couscous has magical properties and has traditionally been a special dish eaten at times of celebration.  Even today for North Africans, couscous is part of their cultural identity - a food that is served at all of life's milestones as well as an excellent comfort food!


A steaming platter of couscous is always sure to evoke memories of friends and family. It is a popular dish at weddings and it is also served to celebrate the birth of a child. New mothers are given it to help them regain their strength.


Perhaps one of the reasons couscous is so popular around the world is that it is so versatile. Its light fluffy texture lends itself to being transformed into savoury or sweet recipes.


Couscous is made from semolina flour and a little salt and water. Traditionally, it required a long cooking period but producers have made it much more convenient for today's busy families by creating a range of fabulous flavours which are ready to eat in just minutes.


It's incredibly simple to prepare - just add hot water and if you prefer, a little vegetable oil and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat, leave for a few minutes, gently re-heat to separate the grains.


Couscous can be used instead of rice, pasta or potatoes as an alternative carbohydrate. It is the perfect food for busy but health conscious people. It has a medium glycaemic index which means it is absorbed slowly into the body helping to stabilise blood sugars and helps prevents cravings for sweet foods. So good for weight watchers too!  Couscous is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and is a good source for selenium a mineral which helps the body's immune system and is essential for good health.


Couscous contains:


Some protein, which the body needs to grow and repair itself.

Some fibre that can help the body get rid of waste products.

B vitamins, which release the energy from the food we eat and help the body to work properly.

We should eat some starchy foods, such as rice, grains, bread and potatoes every day as part of a healthy balanced diet. Rice and grains such as couscous can be eaten hot or cold and in salads, such as taboule.