Claudia Roden’s recipe for vegetable couscous – The Guardian

A classic vegetable dish given extra zing by a spicy Moroccan ‘jam’
This looks complex, with lots of ingredients, but is really easy. I make it when I have invited a lot of people and I know some of them are vegetarian. Instead of cooking the vegetables in the broth, I roast them so they keep their individual flavours, and I enrich the broth with herbs and spices. I prepare it all in advance – the grain in a huge terracotta dish that can go from the oven to the table – and reheat just before serving.
I usually also serve the tomato “jam” alongside, which is inspired by a Moroccan relish, so-called because it is thick and dense, sweet and aromatic with honey and rose water, with chilli to mitigate the sweetness. I always make too much and keep any left over in the fridge to use with other dishes.
Serves 8
aubergines 3, trimmed and cut into 4cm chunks
red peppers 2, seeded and cut into 4cm pieces
squash 400g, cut into slices or cubes
celeriac 1, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
carrots 2, peeled and cut into 3cm slices
olive oil
couscous 500g
salt and black pepper
For the broth
onion 1 large, chopped
olive oil 2 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves, chopped
tomato 1 large, skinned and chopped
vegetable stock 1.25 litres (use 2 stockpots or stock cubes)
cinnamon 1 stick
ground allspice ¼ tsp
ground ginger ½ tsp
saffron threads a good pinch, or 1 tsp ground turmeric
chickpeas 1 x 400g tin, drained and rinsed (optional)
coriander 1 large bunch (50g), leaves chopped
flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch (25g), leaves chopped
harissa 1-2 tbsp, or to taste
For the tomato “jam
olive or sunflower oil 2 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves, crushed
chopped tomatoes 2 x 400g tins
runny honey 2 tbsp
rose water 2 tbsp (optional)
chilli to taste
To make the jam, in a wide sauté pan or frying pan, warm the oil over low heat, add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, stirring until the aroma rises and it just begins to colour. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the chopped tomatoes, then simmer, uncovered, over medium heat for about 25 minutes until thick and jammy. Stir in the honey and rose water, some salt and chilli to taste, and cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Pour into a bowl to pass around.
Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4. Arrange the vegetables in one or two foil-lined roasting tins, sprinkle with salt and drizzle about 5 tablespoons of olive oil over them, tossing the vegetables to coat them all over.
Roast for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft, turning them over once.
Put the couscous into a large baking dish you can serve it in. Add ½-1 teaspoon of salt to 600ml warm water (half boiling, half cold) and gradually pour this all over the couscous, stirring so that it is absorbed evenly. Leave to swell for 10 minutes.
Now, here is the secret for fluffy couscous: stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and rub the couscous between your hands above the dish to aerate the grains and break up any lumps.
For the broth, fry the onion in the oil, stirring over low heat until soft. Add the garlic and stir for a few seconds, until the aroma rises, then add the tomato and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Pour in the stock and add the cinnamon stick, allspice, ginger, saffron or turmeric and the chickpeas, if using. Bring to the boil, add salt and pepper and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
If you’ve made everything in advance, you’ll need to reheat 15 minutes before you are ready to serve. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4. Cover the dish of couscous with foil and put it in the oven, and put the vegetables on the shelf underneath. Bring the broth to the boil, take off the heat and stir in the chopped coriander and parsley.
To make a hot peppery sauce to pass round, put 2 ladlefuls of the hot broth in a bowl or jug and mix in the harissa to taste.
To serve, fluff up the steaming hot couscous with a fork, breaking up any lumps. Ladle some of the broth over the couscous, enough to moisten, but not so much that it is swimming in broth. Serve the rest on the side for guests to help themselves to more as they wish. Serve it in bowls or soup plates with the vegetables on top, and pass round the peppery harissa sauce for everyone to help themselves.
From Med (Ebury Publishing, £28). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy at Delivery charges may apply


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