Saturday, 21 January 2012

Vegetable Couscous

I first tasted couscous on a visit to Camden Market while I was studying in the U.K.  It immediately went on my list of favorite foods and has become a staple in my pantry.  I love the fluffy, delicate flavor that works so well with spicy curries. To my delight I also learned that it’s really good for you!

I discovered this recipe for vegetable couscous on the internet. It came out pretty well the first time I tried it, although I have tweaked a few things since that first attempt. This is a wonderful recipe for those evenings when you want to rustle up a quick meal that’s wholesome and healthy too. Don’t let the lengthy list of ingredients deter you, aside from a little chopping, the process is simple and quick. Also feel free to use other vegetables like zucchini, green beans or eggplant. This is a great recipe to make use of any vegetables you may have lying around in your fridge. I use instant couscous for this recipe. I serve the couscous with a Harissa sauce (recipe included), but the couscous is just as great without the Harissa if you’re pushed for time.

My husband loves this vegetable couscous. No matter how much I make it, it is always polished off! This dish is very similar to a spicy vegetable Upma, only so much more flavor packed.  The recipe serves 3-4, unless your husband is like mine, in which case it will serve two! So here it is – my version of Vegetable Couscous with spicy Harissa sauce.



1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin  
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove powder
1 tsp Chili flakes or a whole dried chili broken up into bits
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cardamoms (crack the shell slightly so the flavor comes out)
Small pinch of saffron
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1” piece of fresh ginger grated
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red & 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (soft but not mushy)
Grated zest of 2 small Indian lemons or 1 finely chopped up small preserved lemon (make sure to remove the seeds)
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups couscous


Place a large, heavy bottomed pot over a medium flame. Add oil and allow to heat. Add cardamom and fry for a minute. Add chili flakes, reduce flame to low, add chopped garlic and stir. Next add chopped onions and stir till golden. Add all dry spices and cook for a minute. Add carrots, and if you’re using fresh ginger, add it now. Cover and cook on low flame for 5 minutes. Next add chickpeas and about 2 tablespoons of stock. Cover and cook till carrots soften slightly. Add more stock if the stock dries up. Add bell peppers, tomatoes and saffron. Stir for about 2 minutes. Add preserved lemons or grated lemon zest followed by the remaining stock. Finally add the salt. If you are using preserved lemons, I would suggest adding less than a teaspoon of salt and taste before adding more since the preserved lemon has a lot of salt. Increase flame to high and bring to boil. Immediately add couscous, stirring with a fork and immediately switch of flame. Cover the pot with a lid. After 5 minutes, add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and fluff up the couscous using only a fork (never a spoon or you will end up with a clumpy, mushy mixture). Cover and leave for another 15 minutes. Garnish with a whole lot of mint and coriander.   



2 large cloves garlic
½ tsp salt (to taste)
1 red bell pepper (medium sized)
1 tomato (medium sized)
3 dried or fresh red chilies (more if you want it extra spicy)
1 preserved lemon (these are small lemons, a little more than an inch in diameter)
¼ small green mango (optional)
2 mint leaves
1 sprig of coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water

Place all ingredients in food processer & grind to paste

[Images- Shalini Pereira]

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