Our friends and veggie lovers Jeanne and Nathan visited for dinner a few weeks back, and for the occasion we decided to whip up an all vegetarian menu in their honor. When thinking veggie, I always first turn to my cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, the brilliant London based chef. We've posted a few other Ottolenghi dishes here (and here) in the past to rave reviews, and in fact, I must say that whenever I come across blog posts of his recipes the response is universal, it seems the whole world loves his creative take on vegetarian cooking.
In addition to this couscous dish, my wife and I also prepared his "Lentils with Broiled Eggplant", though it disappeared before I could get a photo of it so you'll have to wait until we make it again before I can post it. I presume Yotam calls this winter couscous because it calls for parsnips which are generally found just in the winter and spring, but this is a dish you should make year-round, perhaps substituting extra carrots or chunks of celeriac (celery root) if parsnips are hard to come by.
The vegetables are exotically perfumed by the fruit and spices, and the harissa and preserved lemon add just the right amount of heat and briny brightness to make this anything but a "boring" vegetarian dish. This one is equally good warm or cold, and would make a super flavorful side dish if you absolutely must nosh on some meat tonight. Eat it up!
Cheers – Steve
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
- 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
- 8 shallots peeled
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 star anise
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
- 2 1/2 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (from a 10 ounce squash)
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 1 cup chickpeas, canned or freshly cooked
- 1 1/2 cups chickpea cooking liquid or water
- 1 cup couscous
- large pinch saffron
- 1 cup boiling vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons butter, broken into pieces
- 2 tablespoons harissa
- 1 ounce preserved lemon, finely chopped
- 2 cups cilantro leaves
- Heat the oven to 375℉. Place the carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large oven proof dish. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of the oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and all the other spices and mix well. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin or squash, stir and return to the oven. Continue cooking for 25 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining their bite. Now add the dried apricots and the chickpeas with their cooking liquid and/or water. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes, or until hot.
- About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the saffron and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for about 10 minutes. Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again and leave somewhere warm.
- To serve, spoon the couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Remove the bay leaves, cinnamon and star anise, then spoon the vegetables onto the center of the couscous. Finish with plenty of cilantro leaves.