Friday, September 12, 2008

At the Present Time..

The first time I was introduced to Couscous as a dish was when I went to Tunisia. Traditionally this is made with meat and seven vegetables that are then served on a bed of couscous. Omit the meat and the vegetable version is just as good. Generally the veggies are the chunky ones, and include chickpeas, but vary the veg according to the season and price. Use Harrisa paste for speed or follow the footnote to make up your own spice. If you have no dates, prunes work just as well.
Vegetable Couscous: serves 4 (V)
2 carrots
1 large parsnip
2 small turnips
12 oz (350g) sweet potato
12 oz (350g) butternut squash
2 onions, sliced
1 tblsp olive oil
1 - 2 good tsp Harissa paste* (2 taste)
vegetable stock or water
12 oz (350g) chickpeas, canned or home-cooked
4 oz (100g) no-soak dried apricots, roughly chopped
4 oz (100g) dried dates, stoned and roughly chopped
2 tblsp runny honey
salt and pepper
2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander or parsley
2 oz (50g) toasted flaked almonds
Where necessary, peel the vegetables removed seeds and cut into even sized chunks. Not too small. Fry the onion in the oil until softened. Stir in the harissa paste and the prepared vegetables, pouring just enough stock or water to cover. Bring to the simmer and cook gently for 45 minutes.m then add the rest of the ingredients (except the herbs and almonds) and simmer for a further 15 minutes or so until the liquid has reduced to a sauce consistency. Serve at table from the pan, or decant into a warm serving bowl and scatter over the parsley and almonds.
Note: * Instead of using the spicy hot harissa paste, make a gentler but still tasty paste using the following recipe:
Spicy Paste:
2 tblsp tomato puree
half tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground saffron
1 tsp turmeric
half tsp ground cinnamon
Mix together and use in place of the harissa paste. Adjust the amount of spices used to suit personal tastes. To make it hotter, add a little chilli powder

Another spiced up vegetable dish, but from another country. Again adjust the vegetables according to season. The best vegetables to use are: cauliflower, mushrooms, green beans, and red bell pepper. Small potatoes and peas can also be included in place of the beans).
Biryani made with Vegetables: serves 4 (V)
10 oz (275g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
2 oz (50g) butter
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp grated root ginger
1 tsp turmeric
half tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 lb (500g) mixed vegetables (see above)
5 fl oz (150ml) water
black pepper
seeds from 5 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
fresh coriander for garnish
Soak the rice in cold water for at least half an hour, the longer the better. Melt the butter in a heatproof casserole over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until softened and beginning to caramelise. Stir in the garlic , fresh ginger and the first three spices and fry for 2 minutes then add the vegetables and water, cover and cook gently for 4 minutes. Season well with pepper. The remove from heat.
Drain the rice and put into a saucepan with the cardamom seeds and cloves and cover with water, simmer for five minutes then drain well and fold into the vegetable mixture. Cover with a well fitting lid and place on the hob for one minute - the idea being to build up plenty of steam inside the casserole, the place immediately into a pre-heated oven 150C, 300F, gas 2 and cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Serve garnished with chopped coriander and poppadoms.