Tag Archives: couscous

Recipe | Lamb steaks with ras-el-hanout

If you watched Heston’s ‘Titanic Feast’ last night then you might have spotted him cooking a tangier in Morocco. If you missed it, then you might have seen Jamie doing it a couple of weeks back. It must have been BOGOF week at Channel 4, and how sensible of them. No point in paying for two trips to Morocco when you can kill two birds with one stone. Anyway, Heston – bless him – proclaimed Ras-El-Hanout to be his favourite Moroccan spice, and I can but reiterate the bullet-headed genius. It’s the business. This recipe would be perfect for a spot of BBQ.


Serves 2

2 lamb rumb steaks or something similar

2 teaspoons of ras-el-hanout

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper


– Mix together the marinade ingredients and cover the steaks. Marinate for an hour. If marinating for longer omit the salt and lemon juice until the end. Lemon juice will toughen the meat, salt will dry it out.

– Get a frying pan (or BBQ) hot and fry the steaks for a couple of minutes on each side. How long is obviously contingent on the size of the steak. A good rule of, ahem, thumb is to put thumb and forefinger together and prod the fleshy part at the heel of your thumb. This feels like rare meat. Compare it with the steak by prodding that. For medium rare it’s thumb and middle finger, and so on. These pictures may make it clearer:

Thumb and forefinger feels the same as a rare steak

Thumb and middle finger will feel like a medium rare steak

Thumb and third finger will feel like a medium steak

Thumb and little finger is well done

Does that make any sense whatsoever?

– Hopefully it does. Anyway, once your steaks are cooked to your liking, set them aside to rest for a couple of minutes and serve with some couscous and grilled aubergines. Boom!


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Raw vegan experiment – Day 3 [couscous salad with cherry tomatoes and chilli]

Couscous salad with cherry tomatoes and chilli

I’d never done couscous using cold water, and I have to say that I was not convinced it would be a success when told about it by my mate Dave. I’m thrilled to say that not only was it great, I actually preferred the texture to couscous done with boiling water. So there.

Serves 1

A handful of couscous
150ml water (or thereabouts)
A few cherry tomatoes, halved
1 chunk of cucumber, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
A good handful of mint and coriander, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Stick the couscous in a bowl and pour over the water. Leave for 15 minutes (the couscous, not the room – it’s not that coy).

Fluff with a fork then add your other ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper and olive oil. Devour like a crazed animal.

Banana and blackberry smoothie

Makes about a litre

3 bananas
A big ol’ handful of blackberries
150g oats and seeds
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons soy yoghurt
200ml orange juice
Dried berries – raisins, cranberries, woteva

Stick everything but the dried berries in a blender and, you know, blend. You could sieve it if you are worried about having bits in your teeth for a week (I personally consider the detritus between my molars a cheeky mid-morning snack).

Chill for an hour and pour into a glass with a handful of dried berries on top.

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Rhubarb cock-ups and the godfather cocktail [steamed sea bass]

I had a complete, abject kitchen disaster last night. And not just cooking for myself (which ought to be the time for experimentation and culinary abandon). Lachlan, a family friend of my flatmate Sam, was in Bristol for a conference and needed feeding. It seemed like a good moment to make use of some of the meat and veg that I had brought back from home after Easter – in particular the groaning bag of rhubarb that was firing wonderful, earthy, acidic notes out of the fridge every time I opened it. I settled upon the idea of rhubarb and custard. But my mind was elsewhere, completely distracted from the important issue of belly fodder and rather more focused on my dissertation. I poached the rhubarb in far too much water, which robbed it of its delightful astrigency while diluting the caster sugar I had added, leaving me with a colourless and fairly tasteless rhubarb soup. I should have chucked it and started again. I didn’t. Develop the soup idea, that seemed like the thing to do. A hot and cold rhubarb and custard soup – that is what this ruddy dissertation has reduced me to. I made custard, curdling it then only semi-rectifying it in the same way one might try and salvage a split mayonnaise – whisk another egg yolk and pour your curdled mixture, ever so slowly, into it, whisking all the while. By this point it had been about half an hour since we had finished our pearl barley risotto and I feared Lachlan might start banging his spoon on the table. I ended up serving a custard that was neither hot nor thick nor sweet enough, and a tasteless rhubarb slop. I reckon there is a recipe there though, if executed well – the reverse effect of cold cream on hot crumble, in hot custard on cold rhubarb? I just don’t know anymore.

The pudding aside, it was an evening that has proved disastrous for the aforementioned dissertation. It is 11.40 and I am writing this in bed with a stinking hangover, mainly thanks to Lachlan’s reckless off license purchase of whiskey and amaretto to make the Godfather – 1 part of each with ice. Tasted amazing. I feel terrible.

And yes, the writing as gone astray, and I fear I will be able to offer little before June, what with my finals coming up and that. I’ll try posting something every now and then, but don’t get your hopes up.

Meantime, here is something I knocked up at home, using the wild garlic that carpets the woods at this time of year.

Steamed sea bass with couscous and harissa mayonnaise

Serves 4

4 whole sea bass
Wild garlic leaves if you have ’em
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
200ml groundnut oil
1 tablespoon of harissa

Fill a roasting tray 3 inches deep with water, stick it on the heat and bring to the boil. Stuff the sea bass with the wild garlic, season and place on a rack above the water. Cover tightly with foil and steam for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, mustard and vinegar with a pinch of salt and very, very slowly, pour in the oil. It should start to thicken pretty quickly, at which point you can marginally speed up the pouring operation. If it starts to split you can add a little milk, or follow instructions above. When you have your finished mayonnaise, stir in the harissa. Some chopped garlic leaves too, if you fancy.

Cook the couscous according to the pack instructions and serve with the steamed fish, harissa mayonnaise, and a green salad.

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Moroccan feast [duck and pomegranate salad, couscous, baba ganoush]

It’s amazing how quickly your desires and cravings can shift, especially at this time of year. One minute you want mulled cider, mashed potato and rich, deep stews to stave off the cold, then before you know it, you can’t look at another root vegetable without feeling bloated and overfed. I reached such a point yesterday. On Wednesday night we had jugged hare which was delicious and all, but there comes a time when enough is enough, and I just couldn’t face doing another ‘wintry’ dish with the duck breasts I defrosted last night.

So we went Moroccan (ish) – there was no cinnamon or raisins, indeed there were very few bells and whistles, just good, informal salads and dips and wine and smiles. That’s all you really need. It was a bit of a renaissance for me, actually. It’s so easy to get into a complete frenzy trying to keep warm, then plate and serve your guests supper before it gets cold. My flatmate Sam is especially good at taking two plates through then standing there nattering to everyone while the food slowly drops in temperature and the mash congeals. This way is so much easier. Dishes that don’t rely on being piping hot, and they don’t even need ‘plating’. Just stick everything on the table and let them go at it.

Duck, watercress and pomegranate salad

Duck ain’t cheap, but this reduces the amount you need to serve people. You could do this very well with pigeon too. Indeed, your suggestions towards this dish are welcome, though I’m not sure it needs much fiddling with. I was tempted to sling in some pear, or toasted pine nuts too, but this is lovely in its simplicity.

Serves 6

4 duck breasts, fat removed (don’t throw it away! render it over a medium heat in a saucepan and keep for christmas roasties)
1 pomegranate
100g watercress
olive oil
white wine vinegar

First get stuck into the pomegranate. It’s a little time consuming, but it’s a job to enjoy, not endure. There are a lot of jobs like this in the kitchen. If you look upon them as a chore then you’re not doing yourself any favours, but if you stick some music on and enjoy a few quiet minutes of reflection then it turns into quite a pleasant task. Aaanyway, quarter the pomegranates and separate all the pith and membrane, keeping the pink pearls and chucking the rest.
To make the dressing, take a couple of tablespoons of pomegranate seeds and liquidize or chop. Whisk in about 30 ml of vinegar then 50 ml of oil. Taste and adjust. It shouldn’t need seasoning.
Pat the duck breasts dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil over a high heat until it’s thinking about smoking, and pop in the duck. How long you cook it for both depends on the size of the breasts and how you like them cooked. These were pretty small, so I did 3 minutes a side, but the sort of breasts you see in butchers shops might need double that. I’d suggest cooking for 5 minutes and turning. Give the breast a prod with a finger after a minute or two. If it’s slightly firm to the touch you’re about right.
Put on the carving board and rest for a few minutes. Put the watercress on a serving plate, slice the duck and lay on top. Scatter with pomegranate seeds and then drizzle with the dressing.

Cous cous with roast squash, feta and mint

Serves 6

1 medium squash
100g cherry tomatoes
2 red chillies
250g cous cous
100g feta
A good handful of fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Peel and deseed the squash. Chop into chunks and place on a roasting tray. Drizzle with oil, season and roast for 40 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and roast for a further 10 minutes. Pour 300 ml of boiling water over the cous cous, stir, cover and leave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile deseed and finely slice the chillies, crumble the feta and chop the mint. Stir into the cous cous with the squash and cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Baba ganoush

Serves 6

2 large aubergines
Juice of a lemon
Chilli powder
100g Tahini
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Turn on two gas hobs, prick the aubergines all over with a fork and place them directly onto the flame. Char for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. This gives the baba ganoush a wonderful smokey flavour. Pop in the oven and cook for 40 minutes or so, until completely tender. Remove and cool.

Peel the skin off the aubergine and cut in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Put in a magimix with the lemon juice, a pinch of chilli powder, the tahini and salt and pepper. Blend, pouring in about 50 ml of olive oil as you go. Leave to cool and serve.

Eat the whole lot with some flatbreads from my August blog, or some warm pitta breads. A light, nourishing, warming, heavenly supper. And not a potato in sight.

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