Moroccan Spring Couscous with Barley, Fresh Fava Beans, and Buttermilk


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

Here's a delicious rural couscous dish for spring made with young fresh fava beans. Steam the favas in their skins and pods for maximum flavor.


  • cups (1 pound) barley grits, medium-cracked barley, or Scotch barley
  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallion(s)
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 cups shelled and peeled fava beans (see Step 1)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt


  1. Put the barley grits in just enough salted hot water to cover and leave for 15 minutes. Under water, knead the grains with your hands to soften them.
  2. Fill the bottom part of a couscous pot with water and bring to a boil. If you dont own a couscous pot, a deep kettle and a snug-fitting vegetable steamer or colander will do. If the latter doesn't fit perfectly, use padding: Dampen a cheesecloth, twist it into a strip the length of the circumference of the ketde top, and tuck it between the two parts, to make sure the steam rises only through the perforated holes. Lightly oil the inside of the steamer. Don't let the perforated top touch the boiling water below.
  3. Drain the barley, toss with 1½ tablespoons of the olive oil, pile into the perforated top, cover tightly, and steam until tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Tip the barley into a wide dish; sprinkle with 1 cup cold water and fluff with a fork. Pile the barley back into the perforated top, cover, and continue steaming for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the fava bean—buttermilk sauce. Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium skillet and sauté the garlic, scallions, and half the cilantro for 2 minutes over moderate heat. Add the fava beans, sugar, butter, and 2 tablespoons water. Cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes longer. Season with the salt, pepper, and cumin. Remove from the heat and add the buttermilk and yogurt. Scoop out 2 tablespoons favas and toss with the remaining chopped cilantro; set aside for garnish.
  6. Dump the steamed barley into a large serving dish. Fluff it up with a fork and fold in the fava bean—buttermilk sauce. Shape into a mound and place the reserved fava bean and cilantro garnish on top. Serve hot.