Couscous is a North African dish of small steamed balls of semolina. It is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya and to a lesser extent in the Middle East and Trapani in Sicily. The original name of this dish may be derived from the arabic word Kaskasa or the Berber word Keskes, which refers to the cooking pot in which the dish is prepared.
The origin of couscous is uncertain. Historians differ about the dates of its appearance. Some affirm that Berbers were preparing couscous as early as 238 to 149 BC, describing primitive couscous pots found in tombs dating back to the reign of the Berber King Massinissa. Nevertheless, Charles Perry states that couscous originated between the end of the Zirid dynasty and the rise of the Almohadian dynasty in North Africa between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries.
In the past women used to prepare the semolina themselves through a long process. The semolina used to be sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets. Today, the couscous that is sold in most supermarkets has been pre-steamed and dried.
Couscous is generally served with vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, turnips, etc.. It is cooked in a spicy or mild broth or stew, and some meat, generally, chicken, lamb or mutton.