Fregola, Mograbieh, Israeli Couscous, Moftoul, Ptitim, Jerusalem Couscous, Pearl Couscous, Ben-Gurion rice, Lebanese Couscous, Giant Couscous, Kabyle Abazine – no wonder you are confused. These are all variations of couscous used through the Middle East, around the coast to Sardinia, and into Israel. They vary in size and shape, construction and ingredients but are generally larger couscous/pasta with either a round-ish or rice-like shape.
Although the different types can generally be used interchangeably, technically speaking, there are some differences between the products of different countries. Some are an extruded pasta, similar to Italian orzo, made with semolina and flour which is toasted to dry. These have a nuttier flavour than normal couscous. Another type is Ptitim, or Israeli Couscous, a type of toasted pasta and shaped either like rice-grains or little balls. It was developed in Israel in the 1950s when rice was scarce.
Others, like Mograbieh (Lebanese) and Maftoul (Palestinian), are rolled and dried large couscous pearls about the size of tapioca pearls. When cooked they have a chewy buttery flavour and are larger than Israeli Couscous. These starchy pasta balls swell and become soft and chewy as they cook, and are excellent at absorbing the flavours of the dish they are cooked in.
Sadly, the globalisation of food has meant that differences get smoothed over, and names get mixed, or all the variations merge into one product. Locally, for a long time I was only able to find the extruded pasta type (labelled Israeli Couscous!), but more recently a local Afghan shop stocks the best Mograbieh.
While Ottolenghi uses Fregola for this dish, I suggest using any of the above large couscous types that you have at hand or that are easy for you to purchase. It will still be excellent!
Yes, this is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More. In fact, it is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often slightly massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.
This dish is an unusual one – hearty yet fresh. It is best served just warm or at room temperature.
Similar recipes include Burnt Eggplant and Mograbieh Soup, Artichoke and Potato Salad with Preserved Lemon Mayonnaise, Artichoke Hearts with Mozzarella and Candied Citrus, Saffron Mograbieh Pilaf with Broad Beans, Barley Pilaf with Mushrooms, and Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf.
Browse all of our Large Couscous dishes, and all of our Pilafs. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.
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