Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Moroccan Dinner

Given the super-sultry + roasty weather in Delhi currently, eating has become a chore. Thinking of something that will actually tantalise the tastebuds and coax everyone into eating a hearty meal is quite difficult. But the other day when rootling for snacks, I came across an unopened pack of couscous and immediately flashed back to some couscous dinners in summers past, which had been delicious and popular with the family (read kids, the husband stops counting after you have more than one kid  - at least in these matters!). I happened to lug Kid number three to the doctor, and the doctor’s office is in easy reach of my favourite sabzi mandi, so naturally I made a beeline for it, and picked up loads of veggies, including celery and parsley, feeling like seeing some flecks of green among the grains of couscous.

I wanted to make an accompaniment that had lots of veggies and remembered seeing a recipe for Moroccan 7 vegetable stew in my friend Lulu’s blog so went across and took a look at it. The recipe also called for harissa, one of my favourite condiments, so was a cinch.

Couscous ( for 2-3 people)

Easy-peasy. Boil ¼ liter of water with 1 tsp oil and salt to taste for 250 grams of couscous. When it comes to a rolling boil, drop in the couscous and turn off the heat. Wait for 2-3 minutes and turn heat on to the lowest. Add one or two knobs of butter ( hazelnut-sized) and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter has melted and the couscous is fluffy and dry. Add in your choice of mixed herbs – I added parsley, coriander leaves, mint and chives – and mix well. You can also add in a few pomegranate berries for a fresh, sweet pop.

10 dried chillies
5-6 pieces of garlic, peeled
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds ( shahjeera) – optional, I’ve never used them
3 tbsp roasted coriander seeds or 2 tbsp coriander powder
1 peeled tomato, chopped
Handful fresh coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Chilli powder to taste

Soak dried red chillies in hot water for an hour, until they become soft. Use Kashmiri chillies or Karnataka Byadgi chillies for the least pungency and best colour – if experimenting with other chillies, add them slowly to the harissa, as they can be unexpectedly potent. My tongue is still blistered from yesterday’s first batch! Puree together with all the other ingredients except the olive oil. When purred to a smooth consistency, add the olive oil. It can be stored in a fridge for 3 weeks – if it lasts that long. I find it addictive and it never lasts more than a couple of days.

Moroccan stew
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 onions, julienned
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ yellow bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
Half cup shelled peas
4-5 medium sized potatoes
2 carrots
200 gms pumpkin
28 oz tomato chunks ( I used a tin to make life easy)( approx 1 cup)
2.5 cups veg stock ( just add a stock cube to the water)
Half cup chick peas, boiled
Handful of raisins
1 bay leaf
2-3 saffron strands
2 tbsp olive oil ( not extra virgin!)
Salt to taste

Cut all the veggies into half inch dice. Saute the potatoes in the heated oil until golden brown and keep aside. To the same oil, add the celery, onions and garlic, green bell peppers and bay leaf and cook on medium heat until the onions soften. Add the tomatoes and the saffron as well as the carrots and the stock and let simmer for ten minutes. Then add in the rest of the veggies including the potatoes, and the salt and cook, covered, until the veggies are done. Add the boiled chickpeas and raisins just before serving.

Serve the couscous with the stew on the side, accompanied by harissa so everyone can add as much harissa as their spice-meter enjoys. You can also squeeze a bit of fresh lemon on the couscous to make it taste even more fresh and light, just before serving.

PS. You can add other veggies to the stew - cauliflower, broccoli, beans...

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