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Couscous with Mediterranean Vegetables & Chicken

A delicious buffet or barbecue dish. Easy to make once you have set yourself up with an easy way to steam the couscous grain. It can be made ahead, and possibly improves as the flavours are absorbed by the couscous - but should be served warm or at room temperature.

The recipe is virtually identical to our recipe for 'Couscous with Mediterranean Vegetables' (q.v.), but the chicken flavour will be more pronounced if you use the chicken rather than vegetable stock options. You can make your own additions perhaps adding roughly-chopped salami or chorizo sausage.

Ingredients

Ingredients for 4 main course helpings:

250gr/8 oz ‘Instant/Quick Cook’ Couscous
250ml/½ pint very hot water, or a similar quantity of Vegetable Stock
1 teaspoon (5ml) Marigold Vegetable Powder or ½ a Vegetable Stock Cube if using water
90ml (6 tablespoons) Olive Oil
1 large or 2 medium Onions (peeled and roughly chopped)
A 4cm/1½cm piece of Root Ginger, peeled and chopped into fine pieces
2 medium cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried Herbes de Provence (try to find a blend that contains lavender and green anise)
3 Sweet Capsicums, cored & de-seeded then cut into 3-4 cm pieces
1 mild fresh chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (wash your hands carefully after handling this)
2 small, firm Courgettes, headed & tailed then cut into bit-size pieces
1 small, firm Aubergine, the stalk end removed, then cut into small cuts
1 tablespoon (15ml) Sultanas (optional)
2 cooked Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces.
4 firm ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
A few sprigs of fresh Coriander, roughly-chopped (including their stalks)
A few sprigs of fresh Mint, the leaves removed, then roughly-chopped
A few sprigs of fresh Parsley, roughly-chopped (including their stalks)
A little Salt plus a few generous grinds of Black Pepper.

Equipment needed: A clean J cloth or similar piece of cheesecloth; an electric steamer, steamer that fits over a saucepan of water – or a colander that fits over (and in) a saucepan – so that most of the holes are enclosed in the saucepan. A lid, large enough to keep the steam in the colander.

Method

1. Dissolve the stock cube or bouillon powder in the hot water - if using.

2. Put the couscous in a bowl and pour over the hot stock, fluffing it up with a fork as you go.

3. Set yourself up with your steaming apparatus. If you don't have an electric steamer, half fill a saucepan of water then cover the colander (or whatever else you're using) with the clean J cloth).

4. Put the moist couscous grains in your lined steamer, flaking them through with a fork again.

5. Put the pan on a medium heat, bring the water to the boil then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cook the couscous for about 30 minutes, flaking the grains through to separate them one or twice. Be careful you don't burn yourself on the steam when you remove the lid.

6. While the couscous is steaming, gently heat half the olive oil in a large flat saucepan or deep frying pan.

7. Add the chopped onions and cooked these for 2 minutes before adding the chopped ginger.

8. After a further 2 minutes, add the garlic and sweet peppers, herbs and chili pieces; followed by the courgette pieces 2 minutes later. Continue to cook very slowly while you seal the aubergines.

9. Do this in a separate pan, heating the remaining oil over a medium heat then adding the aubergine pieces. Turn these over constantly so they colour on all sides and have absorbed the oil. Add a little more oil, if you can see any pieces that look uncooked. This operation should take no more than 2-3 minutes.

10. Add the aubergine pieces to the main vegetable mixture.

11. Add the cooked chicken and sultanas (if using), mix everything well together, then continue to cook slowly until the vegetables are tender, but still retain a little bite. Remove them from the heat.

12. When the couscous has been steamed, remove it from its pan, and add it to the cooling vegetables - flaking it through to separate the grains as you do.

13. Season with a little salt (this might depend on how salty your stock was) and a generous quantity of freshly-ground black pepper.

14. Add the chopped herbs and tomatoes and mix in carefully.

Serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature.

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