There was a time when couscous was considered an unusual grain, something to create a Moroccan themed dish to impress your dinner party guests. Now, this grain has become as commonplace as bread and pasta. I have even been putting it on school menus for years as a healthy carbohydrate food option enjoyed but children.
Unfortunately, couscous has become less ‘hip’ in the shadow of more exotic, sexy, media-friendly grains and ‘pseudo grains’ like quinoa, amaranth, millet, teff and buckwheat, which also satisfy the current obsession with all things gluten-free (a special diet wrongly assumed as being superiorly healthy).
I’m just as guilty of never cooking at home with couscous; in the same way I never really eat pasta in favour of more interesting wholegrains and seeds. However, how wrong have I been! After roasting a chicken the other night and trying to rustle up an accompaniment that would make use the stray bits of food in my fridge and cupboards, I stumbled across a dusty bag of couscous.
Taking the lead from traditional tabbouleh, I added both pine and pistachio nuts along with additional veggies including a slightly limp courgette and shrivelled red pepper! It turned out to be the most delicious accompaniment to my roast chicken. If you don’t have any couscous or prefer a gluten-free alternative then use a 400g can of chickpeas. If your veggie or vegan then try adding more nuts (or even additional toasted hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds) to increase the calorie and protein content to make a more substantial main meal.
I should probably be telling you to use wholemeal couscous but I prefer the taste and texture of the white variety, the veggies and nuts ensure sure this dish is high in fibre. As well as fibre, this dish is a good source of protein and high in iron, magnesium, vitamin C and B complex.
Nutty couscous salad
180ml vegetable stock (reduced sodium)
1 tbsp unsalted pistachio nuts
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 medium-sized red pepper, finely diced
1 medium-sized courgette, finely diced
2 spring onions, sliced (bulbs and tops)
Small handful of mint, chopped
Small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 dried apricots, sliced
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 lemon, juiced
- Place the couscous in a small shallow bowl or saucepan. Pour over the hot stock, stir and then cover. Leave to sit for 5 minutes then separate with a fork.
- Heat a small saucepan (dry) over a medium heat. Add the nuts and toast for 2 minutes until the pine nuts start to colour (don’t leave the pan and keep the nuts moving as pine nuts burn very easily!). Once toasted, transfer to a plate and leave to cool.
- Place the cooked couscous in a medium-sized mixing bowl with the other ingredients, season with salt and pepper and combine well.