Thursday, August 2, 2012

Moroccan Couscous with Roast Vegetables

An exotic and colourful Moroccan Couscous with chickpeas, roasted red peppers, diced carrots, toasted almonds and plump raisins are tossed in a fragrant dressing of fresh garlic, tangy lemon juice, fruity extra virgin olive oil and an aromatic combination of fragrant seasonings: ground coriander, cumin and cinnamon. Simple and delicious, the dressing really highlights the roasted vegetables, which have already been sweetened and intensified in flavour during cooking. The chickpeas, and excellent source of protein, fibre and vitamins, add their own wonderful flavour and texture to this festive dish.

Another feature of 
Moroccan Couscous is that it can be varied in endless ways: the carrots and red pepper can easily be replaced by sweet potato, pumpkin or eggplant; pistachios, pine nuts or walnuts can be used in lieu of almonds, and chopped dates, apricots or prunes can easily be replaced by the raisins. Light and delicious served either warm or cold, this colourful Moroccan Couscous salad is excellent paired with grilled lamb, chicken or even a traditional Tagine.

Moroccan Couscous with roasted vegetables, chickpeas & almonds
Serves 4

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, cut into quarters lengthways and thinly sliced
2 red peppers, diced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red onion, cut into wedges and separated
1/2 cup slivered almonds
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
2 cups couscous
1/2 cup raisins
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, brought to a boil
2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped plus extra for garnish
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped plus extra for garnish

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Toss the carrot, red pepper, zucchini and red onion in a baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and bake for 15 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, lightly toast the almonds in a frying pan until they're golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and salt, and mix well. 

Five minutes before the vegetables have finished roasting, mix the couscous, turmeric and raisins in a large bowl and pour over the boiling stock. Cover with plastic wrap to seal in the steam, and let sit for five minutes. Then fluff the couscous with a fork to separate the grains and stir through the carrot, red pepper, red onion, almonds, chickpeas, mint and cilantro. Pour over the dressing and toss together until well combined. 

Serve on a large platter, either warm or at room temperature with a garnish of cilantro and chopped mint.

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