I’m feeling very into my old standard quick-fix suppers at the moment. It’s been a gloriously busy couple of weeks, in all the right ways. Throughout all the activity, I’ve been happy to have a few quick and easy suppers up my sleeve, ready to be pulled out when a hunger pang has hit.
Couscous is one of the more adaptable grains in the kitchen. It loves almost every roast vegetables, but most particularly the Mediterranean and of course North African veggies of its origin.
Some people complain of having trouble getting it to cook right and have found that the boiling water doesn’t get soaked up by the couscous, leaving you with a soggy bowl of floating semolina. I think the key here is making sure the stock you use to soak it is really, really hot as well as getting the balance between couscous and water right.
Another great method is Sarah from Home Organic’s method, where in she toasts the couscous in a dry pan and then add the hot water/stock straight into the pan. It adds such a luscious smokiness to the whole affair that it’s definitely worth giving a go.
This recipe uses the straight-forward soaking method, but if you’re looking for something more interesting, definitely try Sarah’s version. In fact, this whole recipe is amazing.
But to keep things a little more simple, you can stick with this very quick yet satisfying way with couscous. It’s ready in 20 minutes, with only about 5 minutes hands on time. Perfect for a busy cook who still wants to eat well.
What you need for Rainbow Couscous for 2 (with leftovers)
200g of couscous
300ml of good quality chicken stock
1 yellow or orange pepper (of course red will do but the yellow or orange just adds to the rainbow effect)
1 red onion
3 or 4 ripe tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
A good handful of fresh mint leaves
Salt and Pepper
Start by heating your oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas mark 8. Chop the pepper and red onion into bite-sized chunks. Put them in a large roasting dish and drizzle with a good bit of olive oil. Roast for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil your kettle and make the chicken stock. Place the dry couscous in a large bowl and pour over the steaming hot stock. The stock should totally cover the couscous, with the stock should be about 1/2cm above the couscous. Immediately mix everything well with a fork and then set aside, uncovered.
Now you can chop your tomatoes and finely dice your garlic cloves. Once the pepper and red onion chunks have had 10 minutes, take the dish out of the oven and add the tomatoes and garlic. Mix everything well and put the dish back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
Now you can check on your couscous. The stock should be absorbed and if you use a fork to break up the couscous, it should be quite fluffy. There are better ways to make couscous, ways that make it lighter and fluffier, but this is the quickest way I’ve found and it always works for me.
Now you can chop up your fresh mint leaves. You want about 2 tablespoons of chopped mint, which you can then put into the couscous. Mix it well. Now squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice into it, and taste. Add a little more if you’d like more zing.
When your vegetables have roasted, take them out of the oven and add them to the large bowl with the couscous. Mix everything really well. Your pepper and onion will still have a bit of crunch but your tomatoes will be starting to break up. Their juice will add a lovely flavour to the couscous.
Once everything is well mixed, taste and add some salt and pepper to taste. Depending on what kind of stock you use, you might not need too much salt so be careful with that. Add a bit more lemon juice if you think it needs it, too.
Serve it up with a bit of extra mint for a garnish and enjoy a light, stress-free supper.
There is a great blog called Awesome Tapes From Africa, written by music fan Brian Shimkowitz who has been collecting tapes of African music during his travels in the continent. He has now decided to officially release (or re-release) some of his finds, and the first one comes from Malian singer Nahawa Doumbia. This is her track Kungo Sogoni taken from the EP La Grande Cantatrice Malienne which is the blog’s first re-release.