The May Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by the incomparable Sawsan from chef in disguise. Sawsan challenged us to try our hands (literally!) at making maftoul - hand-rolled Palestinian couscous that is as versatile as it is tasty!
Let me start by saying this challenge interested me since I do like to make things from scratch...mostly just to see if I can do it. So I was pretty excited to try this one. Since my son is the only person in the house eating reasonable quantities of carbs at the moment....I chose to make half of the recipe. Getting set up to proceed with the recipe presented a few problems for me. I did not have a proper steaming insert for my pot set to ensure that steam would be forced to travel through the maftoul, and my access to fine bulgar was not good. The bulgar I located was what I would consider to be larger than fine. In hind sight, I probably should have run it through the food processor to diminish the grain size a wee bit. And to solve the problem of how to steam the maftoul.....I purchased a steamer insert that would fit three pot sizes. I found mine for a reasonable price and can see value in having one....so not a big deal. It is fortunate that I made only half the recipe quantity as it fit perfectly into my new steamer.
As far as the process of "growing" the maftoul pearls around a bulgar center....I did find that a bit tricky. Essentially you wet the bulgar grains with salted water and then sprinkle with a flour mixture and then roll the bulgar grains around in the flour to coat them. You do this by raking your fingers through the grains in a circular pattern in a flat bottomed dish with some sides to help contain your growing maftoul. You repeat the steps of wetting and rolling in sprinkled flour....until you have reached a size you like. I found wetting evenly to be difficult, and ofter multiple grains would stick together rather than growing individually in size and I spent a lot of time pulling them apart. Also when adding flour to the wet grains you needed to be cautious not to add more than could be held by the grains as loose flour between the grains would make a bit of mess when the next batch of water was added.
In the end I am still intrigued by the process and will likely give it one more try as I have still some remaining bulgar to use up. Having never eaten "properly prepared" maftoul....I have nothing to compare it to. I found it to be a bit on the heavy and chewy side which may be due to errors in my preparation or cooking. I prepared the maftoul by steaming over a water bath of seasoned water with chopped and seasoned onion mixed in with the maftoul as well. I really was happy with the taste over all and can see that there are a lot of options regarding flavouring.