Whether you call it maftoul, couscous, maghrabiyeh (which refers to the county of Maghreb in North Africa, where this dish is originated from) or for the southern Palestinians it's called marma’oun. So many different names for this small circled grain made from wheat flour. Maftoul is served with a soupy hot stew that warms your heart in the cold winter weather. These are my fond memories of this dish from when my mother used to make it.
So not to be confused, there are many versions of the maftoul itself. One definitely can find what is called couscous in any grocery store. However, it does differ in taste and texture than the handmade maftoul that is done in Palestine. Here is a definition of the word maftoul quoted from Palestine on a Plate book: “Maftoul is also an Arabic word derived from the root “fa-ta-la,”, which means “to roll or twist,” since the grains are actually hand-rolled balls (traditionally by Palestinian housewives), unlike other varieties of couscous that are made in a factory."
Dried handmade fair trade maftoul is sold here in the US by Canaan fair trade. You can buy it from Palestine online store:
What I'm using here today is fresh handmade from my home country Ramallah, that my mom brought when she was once visiting and I kept in my freezer.
As for the stew, I’m following my mother recipe and what I grew up eating. This recipe is enough for 3 adults. Cut one chicken into 4 pieces, I like to take the skin out and rinse the chicken with water, salt, and vinegar. Sauté the chicken with some oil and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom powder) this method gives the chicken an extra flavor and takes away any stickiness that comes with uncooked chicken. Then pour four cups of water over chicken, cover and let it simmer on a medium heat for about half an hour.
When chicken is halfway cooked, add sliced onions (onions can be previously sautéed separately then added to chicken) chickpeas, salt, and turmeric. Spices previously added can be adjusted if needed. Cover it and let it simmer for another 20 minutes and until chicken is tender.
This dish can be easily turned into a vegan one, I have done it in the past and it turned out pretty good. Just simply skip the chicken part and sauté the onions with vegan butter or oil, substitute with vegetable broth, then add chickpeas and the same spices. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes and until onions are softened.
For the handmade maftoul: place maftoul in a strainer and place the strainer on the top of boiling water or the stew itself while it's simmering and completely cover the strainer. The idea here is to steam the maftoul until it is softened. Stir it gently with a fork. This method takes up to 20 minutes, and until maftoul softens.
For other maftoul brands just follow packet instructions.
Add butter, a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon to the maftoul before serving and integrate together.
- 1 bag of maftoul or couscous (follow bag instructions)
- 1 chicken cut into 4
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 2-3 sweet onions
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Mix chicken with cardamom powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and sauté on a heated oil for 5 minutes and until chicken turns golden.
- Add water over chicken and cover, let it simmer for half an hour on a medium heat.
- Slice onions and sauté for 3 minutes in a separate pot.
- Add sliced onions, chickpeas, salt and turmeric over chicken and continue cooking for another 20 minutes and until chicken is tender. Spices can be adjusted if needed.
- Make maftoul separately by following package instructions. After maftoul is cooked, add butter, nutmeg, and cinnamon over maftoul and integrate it all together.
- Stew is served hot over maftoul.