Crispy cous­cous with pump­kin and toma­toes

The Guardian - Feast - - Feast -

with the fridge fi­nally bare of left­overs and the stom­ach full of one too many treats, the an­nual pledge to make bet­ter choices has fi­nally kicked in. Alas, the ex­trem­i­ties of diet and ex­er­cise usu­ally fall by the way­side come Fe­bru­ary. For this rea­son, I pre­fer a gen­tler ap­proach to an­nual res­o­lu­tions. A high dosage of veg­eta­bles, pre­pared lov­ingly and no less deca­dently than at other times of year, is the pre­scrip­tion – plus a lit­tle sweet lux­ury just to keep me go­ing. Ve­gan Gluten free Dairy free Prep Cook Serves 25 min 1 hr 20 min 4

½ crown prince pump­kin or but­ter­nut squash (750g), skin on, cut into 2cm wedges and halved width­ways

3 tsp ground cin­na­mon

8 gar­lic cloves, peeled and crushed 105ml olive oil Salt and black pep­per

The crisp, caramelised layer at the bot­tom of the pan makes this cous­cous par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing. The trick to achiev­ing this layer – known as or depend­ing on where you are in the world – is to let the cous­cous cook undis­turbed, re­sist­ing the temp­ta­tion to stir. Serve with a bowl of yo­ghurt.

tahdig 2 large onions, peeled, 1 cut into 1cm-thick rounds, the other finely chopped

2½ tsp caster sugar 4 star anise

⅓ tsp chilli flakes 750g plum toma­toes (around 6-7), coarsely grated and skins dis­carded (600g net weight)

1 tbsp tomato paste 250g gi­ant cous­cous 250g baby spinach 15g co­rian­der leaves, roughly chopped so­car­rat, Heat the oven to 240C (230C fan)/ gas 9. Toss the pump­kin with a tea­spoon of cin­na­mon, a quar­ter of the gar­lic, two ta­ble­spoons of oil, three-quar­ters of a tea­spoon of salt and a good grind of pep­per. Spread out on an oven tray lined with bak­ing pa­per, then roast for 30 min­utes, un­til cooked through and nicely browned.

Put the onion rounds on a sec­ond lined tray (keep them in­tact) and driz­zle with a tea­spoon and a half of oil. Sprin­kle with half a tea­spoon of sugar and a small pinch of salt and pep­per, then roast for 18 min­utes, care­fully flip­ping over the rounds half­way, un­til soft­ened and deeply charred. Keep warm while you get on with ev­ery­thing else.

While the veg­eta­bles are roast­ing, make the sauce. On a medium-high flame, heat three ta­ble­spoons of oil in a large saute pan with a lid, then fry the chopped onion and star anise, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for eight min­utes, or un­til soft­ened and browned. Add the rest of the gar­lic and the re­main­ing two tea­spoons of ground cin­na­mon, and cook for 30 sec­onds longer, or un­til fra­grant. Add the chilli, toma­toes, tomato paste, the re­main­ing two tea­spoons of sugar, a tea­spoon and a half of salt and a good grind of black pep­per, and cook for eight min­utes, stir­ring often, un­til thick­ened.

Pour in 500ml wa­ter, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and sim­mer for 30 min­utes, or un­til the sauce is thick and rich. Mea­sure out 400ml of the sauce (leave the star anise in the pan), pour this into a small saucepan and keep warm. Mean­while, tip the cous­cous into the re­main­ing sauce and stir to com­bine. Add 375ml wa­ter and quar­ter of a tea­spoon of salt, and bring to a boil on a medium-high heat. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to medium and leave to cook undis­turbed for 30 min­utes, or un­til all the liq­uid has been ab­sorbed and the base and edges of the cous­cous have crisped up.

Heat a ta­ble­spoon of oil in a large fry­ing pan on a medium-high flame. Add the spinach, an eighth of a tea­spoon of salt and a good grind of black pep­per, and cook un­til barely wilted, about two min­utes. Stir in the co­rian­der and set aside.

To serve, spoon the cous­cous on to a serv­ing plate and top with the re­served sauce, pump­kin and spinach, lay­er­ing it all up as you go, then add the onion rounds. Driz­zle over the last tea­spoon and a half of oil, and serve warm.

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