Don’t you just find it frustrating when you start your day early (like 5.00 in my case this morning) and you are through with your morning ritual and at your desk by 6.00 am thinking smugly to yourself, “oh look at me, I am so good, I am going to start my work day early today” only to find that there is some problem with the internet connection. I know, I know – I should learn to live without the internet, the internet is not the be all and end all, that I should go get a life. But internet is critical for my work and so whenever it goes down, specially first thing in the morning when I get to my desk as happened today, I find it freakin’ frustrating!
Fortunately, there is nothing frustrating about cooking couscous. Each time I cook this easygoing grain, I wonder why I don’t do so more frequetly. It is hassle free in that you can prep it in a matter of minutes even after the sauce or the stew accompanying it is made.
if couscous was a musician and not a grain, it would probably warble “I’m easy“
For today’s couscous recipe, I made an aubergine stew with peppers and onions enveloped in my totally kooky sauce. Having never cooked with tahini before (only used it for dressing or in hummus), I wanted to experiment with it during the actual cooking process. Match that with my recently discovered love for tomato ketchup and some hot chillies and you get one creamy yet fiery sauce which totally works with the meek and mild couscous. Toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds provide the lovely – and much desired – nutty and crunchy texture to finish off the dish.
There are plenty of different varieties of aubergine out there. I used the long and slim purple ones. As for the chillies, my greengrocer has got some red chillies which he sold to me a couple of days back. They look harmless (I am told that the big, fat ones are usually mild compared to the skinny ones which are supposed to be wild) but these beauties know how to kick ass!
If you don’t have couscous, you can try the stew with plain rice.
1 Cup dry couscous
150 Grams aubergine
1 Green Pepper
2-3 Hot chillies (adjust quantity according to personal preference)
1 Tablespoon tahini
1 Tablespoon tomato ketchup
A generous pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
1 Teaspoon sumac* (optional)
8-10 pitted black olives
1 Tablespoon mixture of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
1 Tablespoon dukka* (optional)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
- Peel, wash and finely chop the onion.
- Wash and slice the chillies.
- Wash and finely dice the tomato.
- Wash and finely chop the green pepper.
- Split the olives into two. If you have the unpitted variety, remove the stone.
- In a bowl, combine the tahini, tomato ketchup, black olives, paprika (if using) and sumac (if using). Add about half a cup of water and mix well. Set aside this sauce mix.
- Heat a frying pan and once it becomes hot, toast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds for a couple of minutes till they turn a light shade of brown. Be careful not to burn them.
- Once the seeds are nicely toasted, remove them to a plate.
- Return the frying pan to heat and pour the oil.
- Once the oil beomes hot, add the chopped onions, tomato, green pepper, chillies and salt to taste. Mix well, cover, lower the heat and let the vegetables cook for 10 minutes.
- While the onion mixture is cooking, wash and chop the aubergine.
- After 10 minutes, uncover and add the aubergine along with the sauce mix. Stir everything together, add some more water if you think it is needed, cover and let the stew cook for 10 minutes after which time take the pan off the heat.
- While the stew is resting, cook couscous according to instructions on the packet.
- Plate the cooked couscous with stew over it.
- Sprinkle with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds and dukka (if using).
- Dukka is a versatile Jordanian spice mixture made with roasted sesame, wheat and coriander. It can be used as a seasoning, as a marinade or even in dips.
- Instead of sumac, you can use a teaspoon of cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. I wouldn’t recomment lemon or lime juice for this recipe as it would become too sour. You want just a wee hint of tartness.