Couscous. Sounds exotic. Contrary to popular opinion its a pasta, not a grain. Made by mixing semolina with water, and then shaping it into little “grains”. Pasta or grain. It doesn’t really matter. This Moroccan staple is extremely versatile and pairs well with just about anything.
Last night we fired up the barbecue for dinner. I’m happy to say that chez nous the barbecue is my husband’s domain. He takes care of the grill and hotplates. All I have to do is prepare a simple salad. No wonder I love summer so much.
This couscous salad is ridiculously easy to prepare. The obvious shortcut. Instant couscous. Boil a kettle.Wait five minutes for the grains to swell. Fork through any lumps. Voila! The perfect base for a tasty salad.
Couscous on its own may be very bland but there is an endless array of vegetable, herb, spice, nut and dried fruit combinations that can be used to impart great flavour to this salad. Look to what’s in season, and in your pantry or refrigerator. There are no hard and fast rules. Be guided by your palate. The only real limit is your imagination.
For this salad I used leeks, sweet potatoes and red capsicum from the refrigerator. My spices? Cumin and nutmeg. Simply because they pair well with the sweet potato. My aromatics? Lemon, Ginger, garlic, shallot and chilli. Dried fruit for sweetness? Currants. Nuts for crunch and texture? Toasted slivered almonds. And lastly the herbs. Rocket, parsley, coriander and mint. The result? Delicious.
Herbed Couscous Salad with Leek, Sweet Potato and Red Capsicum
Serves 6 as an accompaniment and can be served warm or cold.
2 cups instant couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white part only, diced
1 sweet potato, chopped into small dice
1 red capsicum, diced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
a good grating of nutmeg
½ long red chilli, de seeded and chopped
3 cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons currants
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
3 green spring onions, sliced
½ bunch rocket (arugula), shredded
½ cup chopped fresh herbs, parsley, coriander and mint are ideal
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
PLACE two cups of instant couscous into a large bowl.
BOIL a kettle and pour two cups of hot water onto the couscous. Cover the bowl with glad wrap or cling film. Leave to stand for 5 minutes. Remove and stir the couscous with a fork to break up any lumps.
MEANWHILE add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a saucepan. Sauté leeks over medium heat until soft.
ADD diced sweet potato and sauté for a further 5 – 10 minutes or until sweet potato is tender.
ADD capsicum, chilli, ginger, garlic, cumin and nutmeg. Sauté for a further 2 minutes until mixture is fragrant.
REMOVE pan from heat. Cool slightly. Add to prepared couscous. Stir well to combine.
ADD lemon juice and zest, currants, slivered almonds, spring onions, rocket and herbs. Toss to combine.
DRESS with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper. Serve.