Recipe for Christmas Eve Couscous


2 oz oil
1 lb onions, sliced
1 lb carrots, sliced
1 1/2 lb acorn squash - peeled, seeded & dic; ed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, or more
1 1/2 pint water or vegetable stock
1 lb courgettes - trimmed and sliced
1 lb frozen broad beans
1 salt
1 each squeeze lemon juice
1 dash sugar
1 chopped fresh coriander

1 lb couscous
1 teaspoon salt
2 oz butter

1 tablespoon harissa sauce
15 oz canned chick peas, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 oz raisins
4 oz pine nuts
8 oz soy yogurt
1 a dusting of paprika


First make the stew. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes, then add the carrots, squash and spices. Cook for a further 10 minutes, with a lid on, stirring from time to time until all are buttery and spicy. Add the water or stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are just becoming tender. Add the courgettes and broad beans, and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Season with salt, lemon juice, and a little sugar if necessary. (This is best made in advance and reheated, as the flavours improve -- it is particularly good after freezing.)

Now make the grain. This is an unusual way to cook couscous, but I find it gives the best results. Put the couscous into a baking tin and add 1 pint of water; immediately drain this off and return the couscous to the tin. Leave it for 20 minutes, separating the grains with your fingers after 10 minutes, or more times if you're passing. Put the couscous into a sieve or steamer lined with a blue J-cloth. Set over a pan of simmering water (it doesn't have to be the stew) for 20 minutes. Tip the couscous back into the baking tin and pour over 5 fl oz cold water with the salt dissolved in it. Sift the grains with your fingers and leave for 15 minutes, then put back into the lined steamer and heat as above for a further 20 minutes. Sift with your fingers into a serving bowl and stir in the butter. Set aside while you put together the extras.

To assemble and serve, take a ladleful of liquid from the stew and add it to the harissa to make a thick paste. Put this into a small bowl. Drain the chick peas. In a small pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds, stirring for a moment or two, then add the chick peas and stir until heated through. Put into a second small bowl. Cover the raising with boiling water, leave for 10 minutes or longer to plump, then drain and put into a third small bowl. Put the pine nuts into a fourth bowl -- they can be lightly toasted if you like. Finally, put the yogurt into a fifth bowl and dust the top with some paprika.

To serve, ladle the stew over the couscous and garnish with chopped fresh coriander.

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