Seven Vegetable Couscous
A warming winter recipe from “The North African Cook Book” by Jeff Koehler.
Many in Morocco would call this couscous with seven vegetables the country’s national dish. This is especially true in urban areas, where a wide choice of vegetables is always available, or on the fertile plains in the west that are well known for their agriculture. The choice of vegetables varies throughout the season, from fresh broad beans and artichokes in spring to fennel in winter and pumpkin or squash in autumn While the number seven is auspicious throughout Islam, couscous aux sept légumes often has — season allowing — more than seven different types of vegetables (as in this recipe). If using canned chickpeas rather than dried ones, rinse and add with the pumpkin and zucchini.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus soaking and resting time
Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
100g (½ cup) dried chickpeas
750g (4½ cups) medium couscous
500g bone-in lamb leg, shoulder or neck, or beef shanks, cut into 6–8 pieces
2 red or yellow onions, quartered
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for preparing the couscous
4 carrots, halved crosswise and lengthwise
2 turnips, peeled and halved lengthwise
4 ripe tomatoes, quartered
12 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
12 sprigs coriander
2 wedges green cabbage (about 250g total)
2 white potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
400g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 7.5 × 5-cm pieces
2 zucchini, scrubbed but not peeled,
halved lengthwise and then crosswise
2 long sweet green peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
25g (2 tablespoons) butter, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper
Put the dried chickpeas into a large bowl, pour in abundant water to cover and leave to soak overnight. The next day, drain and rinse.
Steam the couscous in a couscoussier over the stew, or otherwise prepare the couscous.
Put the lamb, onions, paprika and saffron into the bottom of a large couscoussier. Season with salt and pepper and add the oil. Swirl to coat, then cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add 1.5 litres (generous 6 cups) of hot water and bring to the boil. Add the chickpeas, carrots, turnips and tomatoes. Fold the parsley and coriander sprigs, tie into a tight bundle with kitchen string and add. Cook for 30 minutes. (If there is no steaming basket on top, loosely cover the pot.)
Add the cabbage and cook for 20 minutes. Add the potatoes, squash, zucchini and peppers and cook for a final 30 minutes. Remove and discard the parsley and coriander, then carefully transfer the vegetables and meat to a large platter with a slotted spoon.
To serve, fluff the warm couscous, add the butter and toss the couscous until coated. Either on a large round serving platter or in individual bowls, gently mound the couscous and make a well in the centre.
Place the meat in the well surrounded by vegetables. Scatter chickpeas around the edges and ladle over some broth.
Serve with the remaining broth in a bowl to add as desired and, if needed, the remaining vegetables on the side.
This is an edited extract from “The North African Cook Book” by Jeff Koehler (Phaidon), $74.95.
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our eighth edition, Page 158 of Winning Magazine. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.