What is Metkut?
Metkut is a Spice mix from Maharashtra and is unique in the sense that it uses some roasted chic pea dal, urad dal,rice and also wheat in the ground spice mix. To me the real uniqueness is in the use methi, asafoetida, white pepper and dried ginger, turmeric all of them acting as mildly bitter and sharp astringent tastes. Used in right proportion they can be balanced well with the fat of ghee and acid of lemon pickle. Indeed this is how it is served sprinkled on congee like overcooked rice. People eat it as a nourishment booster when sick, helping them overcome their reduced ability to taste salt. However we love it other times as well and believe that it also pairs well if you add a ladle of vegetable or chicken stock to this rice preparation called “Metkut Bhat”.
Metkut is readily available in packets but you can quickly roast and grind your own. You can use this recipe by our talented sister in law, although we add a bit of white pepper to the one we make.
Why Couscous and Pickled Lemon?
We had an eye opener of a Couscous at Mourad in San Francisco. It was drizzled with brown butter and seasoned with chopped Pickled Lemon. The feeling was of homliness and eating a cozy meal. Just the same feeling as when eating “Metkut Bhat”. Immediate reaction was that the salty and acidic lemon bites add the same kind of playful intensity as “Sweet lime pickle”. With some wheat included in metkut and couscous being made from semolina, it seemed this will be a good binding transition as a seasoning. We really could see the flavors of metkut working with Couscous in our minds. The only thing remaining was to try it out.
We got ourselves a ready-made bottle of the pickled lemons although you can follow a recipe here to make your own.
After Mourad we were pretty much done with instant packet Couscous. This is the worst thing you could buy and eat to help yourself like couscous. Buy the hand rolled couscous and steam it with some patience and you can fall in love with it. We started with a cup of couscous and heated 1 cup water and added a pinch of turmeric to it. We then drizzled some of this on the couscous in a large flat dish and started to rub it in the palms of our hands so that the couscous absorbed some of this water but also stayed separated and helps stay fluffy upon steaming. We kept adding water and used only as much water as was possible to keep the grains moist but not sopping wet. We then set this couscous in a colander on top of a steaming pot with enough water. This way the steam would rise and pass through the couscous. Initially we lightly covered it allowing the steam to escape slowly, but towards the end of 40 minutes we had left this open.
Once steamed we took this out in a big bowl and added some chopped cilantro and mint leaves. We added Metkut and we added ghee. We also scraped the insides of the pickled lemon and chopped the skin and added it to the couscous and fluffed it while mixing it in with a fork. Our couscous was cooked, light, separated and delicious.
We cooked a vegetable tajine on the side with cauliflower, onions, tomato, potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, Golden Carrots, Turnips.
Although we served this with the Tajine for dinner we had the couscous on its own the next day for lunch. The couscous is great on its own too with Metkut and ghee. The bites with ghee or bites with pickled lemon are accentuated by the richness or the salty tangi-ness.
- 1 cup Couscous (Not Instant mix)
- 2 tsp Metkut Powder
- 1 Moroccan Pickled Lemon chopped with pulp discarded
- 1 Tbsp Ghee
- 1 tsp salt
- 0.5 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp chopped cilantro and mint
- 1 cup water for couscous
- 4 cups water for steaming
- Heat 1 cup water with turmeric and salt
- In a large dish add this water gradually as needed rubbing the couscous in palm, rolling it out so that it gets moist and absorbs water but grains are separated
- Add between 0.5 to 1 cup of this water as needed so the grains are soaked and moist but stay separated and are not sloppy wet
- Set this couscous in a strainer on top of the steamer with the 4 cups water heated
- If you have a traditional couscous steamer no need to place a lid. Else place a light lid, forcing the steam to rise through the couscous but allow it to escape
- Steam for 30 to 40 minutes till done
- Take out in a large pot and mix in the ghee, chopped pickled lemon, herbs, metkut with a fork while fluffing the couscous
- Serve Hot on its own or with steamed/boiled vegetables or meat or with Tajine preparations