Regardless of how easy couscous is to make, and its versatility, I never have the stuff in my cupboards. Until now. After buying it recently I’d thought of doing a version with chicken and courgettes, both served warm. Out of curiosity I Googled couscous recipes and the first that came up was exactly that, including pistachios. As it’s on the BBC’s web site I don’t want to falter on copyright. Especially as I used to be a jewellery designer and had several collections ripped off by every manufacturer in the UK. So I know just how painful plagiarism can be. And it doesn’t help to be positive in suggesting my work was good enough to copy in the first place. I just don’t get that. Anyway, I’ve since spotted really thin asparagus in one of my local supermarkets. If they still have them in stock next week I might go with that combination instead.
Here, with this Couscous Salad, I’ve gone with what I could buy yesterday, including plump, ripe Italian peaches. There’s a range of flavours in this from the sour note of the raw chilli to the sweetness of the peaches and saltiness of the streaky bacon. And I’ve purposely gone Autumnal with the pan-fried mushrooms with a hint of cayenne and finely grated nutmeg. The only flavour that’s sort of missing is freshly chopped coriander/cilantro. I’ve gone with one small stem of fresh parsley from a plant growing on my window sill, and its flavour went a long way. If you have the time I would love to hear about your favourite combinations, especially as I’ve only just found a new food group. Apart from chicken and asparagus, and the more obvious Moroccan use of spices I can’t really think of differing combinations. Although, I’m toying with the idea of using figs, Brie and fresh thyme to use as a stuffing for marrow, that I spotted yesterday. Perfect for roasting.
Couscous Salad, with bacon, pistachios, mushrooms and ripe peaches
- rapeseed or olive oil
- 200g (7.05 oz) x onions, peeled and chopped
- 1 x dried bay leaf, ripped
- 2 x garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 300g (10.58 oz) x closed cup mushrooms, wiped, sliced in half, then sliced crossways
- large pinch x cayenne pepper OR 1/3 x teaspoon
- 6 – 8 x fine grates whole nutmeg
- 2 – 4 x rashers streaky bacon, pan-fried separately
- 80g (2.82 oz) x couscous, rinsed
- up to 200ml (0.42 US pt lqd) x water
- 1/2 x (organic) very low salt vegetable stock cube
- 1 x medium green jalapeño chilli, washed, deseeded and cut into small dice
- handful x pumpkin seeds
- 1 x heaped teaspoon ground almonds
- 1 – 2 ripe peaches, cut in half, stone removed, peeled and cut into small chunks
- fresh parsley or coriander/cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 x handfuls unsalted pistachios, shells removed
- up to 1 x lemon, rolled under your hands, then freshly squeezed to serve
- extra virgin olive oil – to serve
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 (out of 6). When onions are ready and the pan is hot pour in enough oil to cover its base. Add the bay leaf and allow to infuse. Add the onions and stir frequently. When they start to turn a pale golden reduce heat to No 2. When turning golden reduce heat to No 1. Push the onions to the sides, pour in a glug more oil if necessary and add the garlic. Allow several minutes for the garlic to cook out its rawness. Take off heat and remove the onion mixture with a slotted spoon to a suitable bowl and set aside.
- Prep the stock in a small saucepan over heat No 4, remove the bay leaf from the onion mixture and add that as well, and keep on heat until near boiling point, stirring occasionally until cube is dissolved. Rinse the couscous and add to a suitable bowl. Pour over the stock until it just reaches the top of the couscous. Not all of the stock is needed. Leave to stand for around 10 minutes, then stir through with a fork.
- Put a heavy-based saucepan or pan/skillet on heat No 4. When mushrooms are prepared pour in a little oil and add the mushrooms. Stir through occasionally. When they start to leach a brown liquid stay with the pan and stir frequently to prevent scorching. Reduce heat if necessary. Continue to cook until nicely golden all over. Remove from heat and add the cayenne pepper and the finely grated nutmeg.
- Pan-fry the bacon until nicely golden, then remove to some kitchen paper. When cool enough break into small pieces,
- Assemble the rest of the ingredients into a serving bowl. When plated pour over some lemon juice, to taste, and the evo oil. Snip or finely chop either fresh parsley or coriander and sprinkle over the salad.
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