couscous salad with chicken
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The biblical manna from heaven apparently was a resin from tamarisk or bdellium trees, sap from an ash tree or, even worse, dew made up from some kind of scale insects. Either way, it was gathered at dawn and then ground and ponded into cakes. Doesn’t it sound horribly appalling? I mean, all very well, the Israelites on their passage to Canaan can’t have been very picky about food. Still I don’t like to believe what sounds rather a glorious food was in fact bugs or resin.
What I like to imagine is that it was couscous falling from heaven.
Pissing on my own parade, but it really can’t have been - because contrary to popular belief couscous isn’t naturally growing grain. It’s in fact rather processed semolina pellets so more like polenta or microscopic pasta than rice or quinoa. What might support my belief is the fact that it’s incredibly nutritious and filling.
The North African/Middle Eastern cooking method involves several stages of steaming until the grains are swollen, fluffy but not a soggy mess and they still have some bite. In Western Europe we’re lucky (or not?) to mostly cook the instant stuff which requires only the same amount of boiling water or stock and takes as little as 10 minutes.
The only darker side of couscous is that it does try to go everywhere, over worktops, the floor, your hands and face given half a chance. And dishwashers hate it - but I’m happy to forgive it, wash up by hand and deep-clean the kitchen.
This is a lovely salad. As with most salads, the ingredients may vary – depending on your fancy and the contents of the fridge. I like to add some kind of cooked, warm vegetables though – just peppers here, but courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes and even mushrooms will perform great as well.
- Serves two people, generously
- 100g couscous
- a handful of raisins
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ stock cube
- 100ml water
- 3tbsp olive oil plus extra for dressing
- a quarter of roast chicken or as much as you like, torn or sliced
- 1 large red pepper, sliced
- a few cos or romaine lettuce leaves, finely shredded
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- ½ jalapeno or green thai chilli pepper
- a small bunch of coriander
- a few sprigs of mint
- a handful of almond flakes
- 2tbsp sherry or balsamic vinegar
- a little lemon juice
Place dry couscous in a bowl with the raisins and halved cloves of garlic. Mix the water with stock cube, add the oil, bring to the boil and immediately pour over the couscous. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 15-20 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients.
Chop or slice all the herbs, salads and the chicken, as above. Toast the almond flakes until coloured and fragrant. Put the red pepper slices in a skillet with a drop of oil and fry briefly, tossing them about. When they are only just softened, place them in a large bowl, add the spring onions, the vinegar and the chicken.
Remove the cling film from the couscous, pick out the garlic and fluff the couscous a little with a fork. Add it to the peppers and chicken plus the rest of the ingredients: mint and coriander, shredded lettuce, almonds, an extra drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lemon. Check for seasoning.