Originally, I had planned to make a lamb couscous as a bit of a paschal nod but couldn’t find any cuts of lamb that I liked the look of in the supermarket on Sunday morning.

Instead, I went the vegetarian route and cooked for a friend from Toulouse. She was thrilled to be back in the countryside so was out picking nettles and other edible green things so insisted we use a bowlful of nettle tips as well.

I cooked this properly (for a change) in a couscoussier – which does not get as much use as it should – given to me by a Tunisian friend.

To feed four – and I apologise in advance for the vague quantities – you will need:

  • one medium sweet potato
  • two large courgettes
  • four or five large carrots
  • one onion
  • two or three large cloves of garlic
  • a 240g jar of chick peas
  • a colander of nettle tips
  • fresh coriander, chopped
  • one heaped teaspoon cumin
  • one teaspoon turmeric
  • one teaspoon paprika
  • one very heaped teaspoon harissa
  • one tin chopped tomatoes

Peel the carrots and cut them into strips (mine were about 7cm long), then cut the courgettes into similar-sized strips. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into large cubes.

Pour olive oil into the couscoussier, approximately half a centimetre deep or at least enough to cover the base well, and when it is hot enough, add the harissa and spices and fry them gently. When the oil is a nice uniform dark colour, add the onions and garlic and allow to soften. Add the sweet potato and fry it slightly, then add the other ingredients.

Add the nettles and coriander, and season. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and as much water as is required to fill the couscoussier and cover the ingredients with liquid. If you are able to give it a gentle stir without sloshing stuff over the sides, do so. Mine is a Tardis-like 2,5 litre one which seems to make much more food than you’d think, but is quite difficult to stir.

For the couscous, I’m not entirely sure I got it right. I rinsed the couscous quickly then put it into the top half of the couscoussier and let it drain as if it were a flat-bottomed colander. Then, once the sauce preparation was ready I essentially let the bottom half cook long enough to steam the couscous all the way through, fluffing occasionally with a fork. Although this came out quite nicely, I need to research it more as I’m not sure that’s right.

Add the chick peas towards the end of the cooking. This served four with seconds, did lunch today (with fresh couscous) and leaves enough left over for a third go tomorrow lunchtime.

As there is lots of mint in the garden, I had this with some mint tea.

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