Fish Couscous


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“This is based on a recipe from Jill Norman's book, The Complete Book of Spices. The intro to the recipe says, "Couscous with fish is popular along the Tunisian coast. Saffron, cumin and coriander are the usual spices; if you wish, use Tabil instead of the cumin and coriander. Grey mullet or bream would probably be used in Tunisia, but you could use any firm-fleshed fish. Reserve all the fish and vegetable trimmings so you can make a well-flavored stock." When I made this, I used haddock and I took one shortcut: I used pre-made fish stock. I also ignored this recipe’s couscous preparation and used the instructions on the box. I ground the Tabil spice ingredients in my Magic Bullet. For harissa, I used chili garlic paste. I also added a tablespoon of unsalted butter when sautéing the vegetables. With the couscous, and served with a half teaspoon of the chili garlic paste per serving, this took me to my happy place! I love this dish!”
2hrs 10mins

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Make a fish stock by placing the fish heads and vegetable trimmings, salt, cayenne and 5 cups water in a large pan.
  2. Simmer stock for 20 minutes, then strain and reserve.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the couscous for steaming. Place grains in a large bowl with 2 1/2 cups water. Stir well and set aside for 10 minutes. Fluff up the grains between your fingers to get rid of any lumps. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the oil.
  4. Heat remaining oil in a large heavy pan and saute the onions until golden. Add the celery, carrots, turnips and the stock, adding water, if necessary, to make up 2 quarts.
  5. Make the tabil: pound all tabil ingredients in a mortar, then dry in a preheated oven at 200 degrees F for about half an hour. When very dry, grind to a fine powder (keeps up to 4 months if stored in an airtight container).
  6. Stir in the saffron, 1 1/2 teaspoons tabil and salt to taste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Add the remaining vegetables.
  8. Place the couscous into a steamer, or in a colander lined with cheesecloth to fit on top of the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Check the liquid level and add more water if necessary, keeping it at a steady simmer so that the steam penetrates the couscous.
  9. Add the fish to the stock and simmer until cooked, about 10-12 minutes.
  10. Turn the couscous out into a large bowl, breaking up any lumps with a fork.
  11. To make a hot-tasting sauce, take out a ladleful of stock and stir in harissa, or paprika and cayenne, to taste.
  12. Serve the stew on top of the couscous or separately.

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