Thursday, January 8

In my kitchen: Ultimate winter couscous

It's 9 degrees outside in DC today.
Perfect weather for dinner that involves roasting... (Really, any excuse to turn the oven on is a good excuse on a day like today.)

So I did what any good cook would do, and made Yottam Ottolenghi's Ultimate Winter Couscous.
Warm. Delicious. Hearty... and Vegan.

2 medium carrots
2 medium parsnips
1 butternut squash
2 shallots
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp hot paprika
¼ tsp chili flakes*
8-12 dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 can chickpeas
1/2 cup water
1 cup couscous
Pinch of saffron threads
1 cup boiling vegetable stock (or water)
1 (extra) tbsp. olive oil
Harissa paste
1 preserved lemon skin, finely chopped
Salt (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Peel and dice (1/2 inch cubes) carrots, parsnips, squash, and shallots.
Place the vegetables in a large ovenproof dish.
Add cinnamon, bay leaves, ginger, turmeric, paprika, chili flakes, 4 tablespoons of the oil, and a pinch of salt and mix well. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Stir the vegetables and return them to the oven for an additional 20-30 minutes (until the vegetables have softened while retaining a bite).
Add the dried apricots, the chickpeas, and water. Stir.
Return the dish to the oven and cook for a further 15  minutes, or until hot.
Prepare couscous according to package directions (including vegetable broth, saffron, olive oil, and salt in the preparation).
To serve, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the centre of the couscous.

I should note that these instructions above are a bit different than in the original. I cooked all vegetables at the same time, instead of adding the squash after the carrots and parsnips. I liked the way the squash got soft and caramelized while the carrots retained a bite.

I also skipped star anise because I didn't have any on-hand.

*And last, but not least, with a toddler in the house, I used mild harissa and served the chili flakes alongside the dish at the table instead of roasting the vegetables with lip-numbing spices.

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