The scoop on pearl couscous.
Unlike traditional couscous, pearl couscous which takes its name from its pearl-like shape and size is often described as a ‘toasted pasta specialty’. Like regular pasta, it is made from hard (durum) wheat and water. But instead of being dried, it is toasted in an oven. It has a rich, nutty flavour and a chewy texture, with a smooth, almost buttery, mouth feel. It makes a perfect side dish to meat, poultry, or fish instead of potatoes, rice, or traditional pastas or couscous. It cooks in around 10 minutes by the absorption method – just like rice – and you can also use it in a variety of dishes – just like rice and other pastas.
Where does it come from? Pearl couscous or ‘ptitim’ made their first appearance as a substitute for rice during the early days of Israel when there was not enough rice for everyone. Prime minister David Ben-Gurion turned to Ivgen Propper (one of the seven founders of the Osem company and the father of Dan Propper, who eventually became the company's CEO), asking him to come up with a wheat-based substitute for rice – and quickly. The company accepted the challenge and developed ‘baked ptitim’, made of hard wheat flour and roasted in an oven, a process that affords them a characteristic flavor and aroma. The success was instant and soon ptitim in the shape of small, dense balls (which the company dubbed ‘couscous’) were added to the original rice-shaped ptitim (known as ‘Ben-Gurion rice’).
Availability Today you can buy Osem Israeli couscous or Osem toasted pasta in supermarkets and health food stores around the world – or from Amazon! Here in Australia, it is marketed as Blu Gourmet Pearl Couscous (GI52) and is on the shelves in most supermarkets and many independent grocers and delis. It also has the GI Symbol. For those of you who need to count your carbs, ½ cup cooked pearl couscous has around 20g carbs and a GL of 10.