Couscous is a grain-like form of pasta made from semolina flour, the same flour used to make pasta. It’s very common throughout the Mediterranean and North Africa. In Morocco it’s often served with dried fruits and nuts and lots of mysterious aromatic spiciness.
Yield: Serves 4 - 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
few cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 19 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 cup couscous
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
2 cups orange juice
1 lemon, zest and juice
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
a handful chopped cilantro
Splash the olive oil into a small saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and spices. Sauté for a few minutes until everything is heated through and your kitchen smells fragrant.
Add the chickpeas, couscous, raisins, apricots, orange juice, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper. Bring everything to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain the simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and continue cooking until the couscous is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the couscous rest for another 5 minutes or so before serving. Using a fork to help fluff up the couscous, transfer it into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the almonds and cilantro.
In Morocco couscous is normally seasoned with a pinch of ras el hanout, a unique spice blend whose name means literally “top of the shop”the spice merchant’s best. If you like, you can make your own ras el hanout by roughly combining equal parts of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, mace, turmeric and black pepper. Use 2 teaspoons in total for this recipe.
This is one of my favourite variations on a classic rice pilaf. It's spiced up with vibrant curry, colourful saffron, and succulent sweet potatoes which, ounce for ounce, are one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables readily available.
For a meal befitting of the lords and ladies in your life, pack this fragrant rice into small bowls and ramekins, then inverse onto the serving plates. Top with a sprig or two cilantro before surrounding the rice with some sautéed shrimp or steamed mussels.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wuh) is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and packed with vitamins, minerals and protein. It’s actually a seed not a grain, but it’s cooked like a grain. The rich nutty taste is perfect in a pilaf, but it’s just as good stirred into any salad. Because of its flavour, ease of cooking and high nutritional value, quinoa is one of the most common foods on my table.