Berkoukech Soup (Mhamsa)

Berkoukech is a simple and earthy soup, it's full of flavours and perfect for the current chilly winter evenings.

This soup is a traditional North African berber dish. It is commonly prepared with giant couscous grains similar to pearl pasta, it also contains vegetables, pulses and meat. The name berkoukech refers to the name of the giant couscous grains used in the soup in the berber language.

Berkoukech recipe is very versatile and changes from region to region across North Africa. In Morocco, berkoukech is also known as mhamsa. Tradtionally, the berkoukech grains were hand rolled and dried out at home, thankfully we can easily find them in super markets nowadays and enjoy this deliciously vibrant soup. 

Please make sure to check the notes at the end of the recipe or your soup might end up looking like a risotto rather than a soup. True story.

I made it a few days ago for Z and I and we loved it, I recommend enjoying it with a big dollop of harissa, but that is only if you like hot and spicy foods. Enjoy!

Berkoukech (Mhamsa)

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 200 gr braising beef or lamb, boneless, trimmed of excess fat and cut in 3 cm pieces (i.e. shoulder, neck fillet, beef shin, etc)
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander and more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Generous pinch of saffron
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • ¼ ground black pepper
  • 200 gr carrots, chopped
  • 100 gr celery, chopped
  • 100 gr drained canned chickpeas or 50 gr dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 200 gr courgette, chopped in large chunks
  • 150 gr giant couscous (also known as berkoukech or mhamsa)

METHOD

• In a large casserole warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, the meat, the tomatoes, the coriander, the tomato paste, the spices, salt and pepper. Leave for 5 to 10 minutes to lightly brown the meat and sweat the onions. Stir occasionally.

• Transfer the celery and the carrots in the casserole. Add 1 litre of water, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 60 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked.

• Add the courgette and the chickpeas then cook for an additional 20 minutes, or until the meat, the courgette and the chickpeas are a cooked.

• When ready to serve, transfer the giant couscous in the casserole and leave for 7 to 9 minutes or until the couscous is cooked. Depending on your type of giant couscous, the cooking time will vary. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve immediately.

Notes

• If the berkoukech soup is not served straightaway, the couscous grains keep absorbing the water and the soup will loose a significant amount of its the liquid. For this reason, I recommend adding the giant couscous in the casserole a few minutes before serving the soup and serving it immediately once cooked.