Good morning folks. Driving to the gym in Ottawa this morning, I watched the temperature drop from -1°C (30°F) to -18°(0°F) in only four minutes, pulling out of my garage to pulling into the parking lot at GoodLife Fitness. But what a great way to warm up and kick start my day. So I’m glad to be sharing with you this vegetarian couscous dish, with lots of warm spices and soft golden colours from sweet potato, carrots, chickpeas and apricots. Even the couscous has a golden glow from a pinch of saffron.
This recipe is adapted slightly from my favourite chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, off his website, a dish called Ultimate Winter Couscous. I have converted the British measurements of weights and volume for those of you who need it. Having a kitchen scale converts from grams to ounces and vice versa, has been such an advantage to me when cooking from those international blogs and websites.
The original recipe called for some parsnips, which I could not find easily when I was putting together this recipe and so I doubled the amount of carrots. Instead of squash, I used sweet potatoes for two reasons: 1. I like the creamy texture of the sweet potatoes, and 2. my husband doesn’t care for squash and he’s one of my primary taste-testers! And added to these two orange beauties are some shallots.
The spices are a blend of whole and ground — star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, mixed with ground ginger, turmeric, paprika, salt and chili flakes.And to incorporate a little later, chopped apricots and cooked chickpeas.In a preheated oven, place the carrots, sweet potatoes, and shallots on a roasting pan, mix with the oil and spices and bake for about 45 minutes until softened and starting to brown.Here is how my pan looked at the end of 45 minutes.Mix in the apricots and chickpeas and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.In the meantime, prepare the couscous. Add boiling stock, a little oil and the saffron to the couscous, cover and microwave for 10 minutes until all the stock is absorbed.
For the final step, you will need harissa paste, preserved lemon and a handful of coriander leaves. Stir the harissa and finely chopped lemon rind (only the rind, discard the pulp) into the vegetables. Arrange a platter with the couscous around the perimeter and spoon the vegetables into the centre, garnished with lots of chopped coriander.
A beautiful dish to bring to the table, as either a main vegetarian meal or a side to roast chicken. Always a pleasure to serve. Enjoy.
Golden Vegetable Couscous
adapted from Ultimate winter couscous by Yotam Ottolenghi
4 medium or 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch circles
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
8 shallots, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole star anise
3 bay leaves
4 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. paprika, smoked or regular
1/4 tsp. chili flakes
1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup Israeli couscous or matfoul
large pinch of saffron threads
1 1/2 cups boiling vegetable stock
1 tbsp. harissa paste
1/2 preserved lemon skin, finely chopped
handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
- In a preheated 375°F oven, Place the carrots, sweet potato, and shallots on a lined or non stick roasting pan. Add all the spices plus 3/4 tsp. salt and 3 tbsp. of the oil and roast for 45 minutes.
- Add the apricots and chickpeas and 1 1/2 cups water for another 10 minutes until warmed through.
- In the meantime, put the couscous in a large microwaveable bowl, add the saffron, remaing 1 tbsp. of oil and boiling stock. Cover and microwave for 10 minutes until all the water is absorbed.
- Stir the harissa paste and chopped preserved lemon skin into the mixed vegetables.
- Arrange the couscous on the perimeter of a serving plate, spoon the vegetables into the middle and garnish with the chopped coriander leaves.