164 – Couscous Tfaya (Caramelized Onions) Recipe

Feb 23, 2015 | Couscous, Poultry

Prep time :

Cook time :

Serves :


Complexity :


Ingredients :


  • 2 pounds onions (finely minced)
  • ¼ cup of raisins (soaked in water for 1 hour)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • 1/4 cup water
  • spices include: 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon


  • 1 cornish hen (1.5 pounds)
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • A small bouquet of fresh cilantro and parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • spices include: 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder, A large pinch of saffron, 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas (soaked in water overnight) or 1 can of chickpeas


  • 10 oz / 280 grams of couscous
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup water

Directions :

Making the Tfaya:
We are going to start by making the Tfaya, which is the caramelized onions – since the onions take a bit of time to cook.
1- First, soak the raisins in hot water. We’ll use them later.
2- Now we are going to prepare 2 pounds onions.
When you peel the onions, make sure to soak them in a bowl of water. This is a very important step, because cutting so many onions will definitely make you cry! Soaking the onions in water is a trick to help with that!
Cut the onions in half and thinly slice them.
To be efficient, just place the onion slices directly into your cooking pot.
3- Add 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon.
4- Pour ¼ cup of water.
5- Mix all the ingredients. Cover your cooking pot and cook the onions on medium-low heat for 45 minutes. Don’t forget to stir from time to time!
If the onions have been cooking for 45 minutes, then they are ready for the next step.
6- Add the raisins that you have drained from water, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water.
7- Mix well, half-cover the pot, and continue cooking the onions on medium-low heat until they are completely caramelized, which take around 20 minutes. Make sure to stir from time to time.
8- The onions and raisins will eventually get a rich brown color and will be soaking in a thick syrup. They will basically look like this… oh yum, make sure you don’t eat them before serving the couscous!

Preparing the Chicken & Couscous – Step 1:
The couscous pot has 2 parts: the bottoms part is used to cook the meat and vegetables, and the upper part is used to steam the couscous. The cool thing is that since the steam comes from the meat and vegetables underneath, your couscous will get a really nice flavor! If you do not have a couscous pot, cook the couscous by following the directions in your couscous pack, and use a normal pot to cook the chicken as I am going to show you.
1- First we are going to place the meat ingredients in the bottom part of the couscous pot. Since I am making couscous for just 2-3 people, I am using a Cornish hen of approximately 1.5 pounds! Feel free to use chicken instead.
2- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add 1 finely chopped onion, a little bouquet of fresh parsley and cilantro, a cinnamon stick, and the spices – here we have:  1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder, and a large pinch of saffron.
3- If you are using dry chickpeas, this is the time to add them. Since I am using canned chickpeas, which are precooked, I will add them later.
4- Mix all the ingredients, and on medium heat, sear the Cornish hen for 5 minutes.

Now, let’s prepare the couscous!
1- Place 10 oz, which is 280 grams, of couscous in a large bowl.
2- Add ½ a teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil to the couscous. Mix well with your hands.
3- Now add ½ cup of water and continue mixing.
4- Let the couscous rest for a few minutes then add it to the upper section of the couscous pot.
5- Get back to your Cornish hen, add 1 cup of water, and turn the Cornish hen around so that the breast portion is at the bottom – this is the part that needs more cooking.
6- Place the upper section of the couscous pot on top of the bottom pot. Cover with a lid and let the meat and couscous cook, on medium heat, until you see the steam coming from the couscous. It will take around 15 minutes.

Preparing the Chicken & Couscous – Step 2:
Check it out! The first steam is coming out from the couscous.
1- Remove the couscous from the couscous pot and place it in a large bowl. Add ½ cup of water. Mix well and let the couscous sit for 5 minutes.
2- Also, don’t forget to check on the Cornish hen, turn it to the other side, and make sure that there is enough water – if you have added 1 cup of water in the beginning, you should be fine.
3- Return the couscous to the top section of the pot, cover, and steam again until you see the steam coming out from the couscous (it will take around 10 minutes). This is the second steaming.
Hey, we got steam for the second time!
4- Place the couscous in a bowl, and taste it! If the couscous is not cooked yet, add ¼ cup of water and let it steam a bit longer.
5- Otherwise, if your couscous is done like mine, add 1 teaspoon of smen, which is clarified butter or ghee, and fluff the couscous with a fork. If your don’t have smen, you can fluff the couscous with just butter.
6- If you are using canned chickpeas, it is time to add them to the Cornish hen and let them cook for 5 minutes in the sauce.

Serving the Couscous:
1- Now you are so ready to serve this couscous!
2- Place the couscous grains first, plant the hen in the middle, pour some of the sauce and chickpeas over the couscous, but not too much as you are going to serve the sauce separately so that people can add the sauce in their own plates to their taste. So just a bit.
3- Cover the hen with the Tfaya, decorate with boiled eggs and almonds. In morocco we use almonds fried in oil, but to go a bit healthier I am using toasted almonds.
4- Guard your dish while walking from the kitchen to the dining room, because I am sure your family and friends are going to raid it before it reaches the table!
Bonne appétit!

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