Peppers, courgettes, tomatoes and whatever else you fancy or consider a summer vegetable, roasted with fragrant spices then tossed with couscous to mop up the juices.
Just the dish for a heatwave
It’s a vibrant veggie dish perfect for the middle of the summer. Because you really don’t want to eat meatballs in heavy creamy sauce when it’s 30C out.
At least I don’t – I want salads, with just a tiny amount of protein or other filler so I’m not hungry half an hour later. Which I wouldn’t be because it’s too hot to feel hungry.
It should, in theory, be the perfect time for a weight-control spell. And it would be – if it wasn’t for ice cream. Because, obviously, you fancy ice cream ALL THE TIME on perfect summer days. Seems like you can never win…
While we commonly mistake couscous for grain, it is in fact tiny granules made from semolina obtained from durum wheat. It’s a North African staple, the counterpart of rice or potatoes from other corners of the world.
But in spite of technically being similar to pasta, it’s much better healthwise. Couscous, especially wholewheat, is far less processed than any pasta shapes and it’s lower in calories.
It has more fibre, more complex carbohydrates that release slowly and a sound amount of nutrients. And it is a lightning quick doddle to prepare.
How to cook couscous
Packages and boxes variously tell you to steam it, boil it or soak it. Pay absolutely no mind to the labels: Moroccan couscous (the most common variety) is pre-cooked and dried so all it needs is to be rehydrated.
To do that, simply add boiling liquid to couscous in a bowl, in equal volumes. Let it sit, covered, for as little as ten minutes and it’s ready to eat.
The liquid might be plain water or it could be fragrant stock. You can add crushed cloves of garlic, herbs or spices to dry couscous and let it infuse while it soaks. It is wonderful in its absorbent qualities and that pertains not just to the soaking liquid but to the flavours of the foods you pair it with.
Other types of couscous, Israeli a.k.a. pearl or Moghrabi couscous have much larger grains and so they require longer cooking: simmering in liquid until it is absorbed, like rice.
Back to the vegetable element of the dish: do not think it’s only meat that requires marinating. Vegetables benefit immensely from standing a while, soaking up the salt and spices, oil and herbs and whatever flavour you want the final dish to have.
This mix is of a Middle Eastern variety, with harissa and honey coating the vegetable chunks and cumin and cinnamon adding sweet heat. I use garlic powder in this recipe, to thicken up the marinade and better distribute the ‘garlickness’.
Since there is honey in the mix, it has a huge potential to burn and stick to the roasting tray. That’s why I line it with a sheet of parchment, only to remove it halfway through the roasting time, which also automatically tosses and turns the vegetable pieces in the dish.
Once the veggies are ready, instead of piling them on mounds of plain couscous on the plates, I advise to reverse it: pour the couscous onto the vegetables in the tin and stir, to mop up the juices and flavours with it. That obviously makes everything look messy, but the flavours will make up for that tenfold.
More couscous recipes
With a meaty protein element, this couscous chicken salad can be served warm or cold. Also a summery dish, with the red peppers showing through, and it's light on calories.
When asparagus is in season, couscous with asparagus chunks, toasted pistachio nuts and fresh herbs is a dish of perfectly matching ingredients.
Couscous for breakfast? But of course: sweet couscous with raisins, yoghurt and honey, it is delicious and easy to make.
More roasted vegetable recipes
Roasted Mediterranean vegetable mix with a topping of crumbled feta and toasted pine nuts. It’s vegetarian, it’s wholesome and it’s healthy.
Sesame roasted broccoli with a hint of sweetness from maple syrup, soused in olive and sesame oil, ready in 20 minutes. Broccoli like you’ve never tasted before!
Roasted sweet potatoes with chorizo and bacon are the perfect blend of sweet, salty and spicy. Served with sour cream topping for a main course, or on its own for a side.