The first time I encountered couscous was in a recipe book when I was about 15. I had never heard of it before, and at first I thought it was some kind of marsupial. Couscous is actually made of semolina, the coarse particles of durum wheat, just like in pasta and brekky cereals. I must have ignored the preparation instructions completely that first time because I put the couscous in a pot on the stove with water, and started stirring. The couscous absorbed all the water instantly, so I kept adding more water, and it just got bigger and bigger. By the time I decided it must be cooked, the couscous bits were about the size of marbles (only a slight exaggeration) and bounced on the plate when served. I think it was the first time ever that my dad politely declined seconds.
Years later I learned that couscous is a cinch to prepare. You just add 1.5 parts boiling water to 1 part couscous and cover it for 5 minutes or so. I like to add a bit of butter, sometimes a handful of sultanas or chopped dried apricots, sprinkle on a pinch of paprika, and season to taste. Fluff it with a fork and you’re good to go. Easy, peasy!
- 1 Tb olive oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 Tb ground corriander
- 1 Tb ground cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp hot chilli powder (more or less is fine, adjust to taste)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cans chickpeas (give them a good rinse)
- 1 can diced peeled tomatoes (or a few fresh ones, but make sure you blanch and peel them first)
- 1 Tb garam masala
Use a nice tall pot for this, you don’t want to be scrubbing little red spots of curry off your stovetop for hours afterwards.
- Put the pot on medium heat and add the olive oil and the mustard seeds. Hold a lid over the pot because they will start popping!
- When the seeds have popped, add the chopped onion. Cook until the onion looks translucent.
- Add the crushed garlic and the rest of the spices (all except the garam masala) and stir for a minute.
- Add the drained chickpeas and the undrained diced tomatoes and simmer on low heat, partially covered to stop it splattering on the stove, for at least 30 minutes (any longer is a bonus). If it looks a bit dry just add a splash of water.
- Add the garam masala and simmer for another few minutes or until you’re ready to eat.
Serve the chickpea curry on a bed of couscous with a nice dollop of homemade natural yogurt, some fresh mint and a wedge of lemon, then dig in.