I was brought up eating couscous, but when I first came to London no one had heard of it. Thirty years later, I reckon it’s cooked as often as pasta. This makes a healthy and wholesome lunch or supper, and the best thing about it is that it can be scaled up if you’re cooking for a lot of people. If that’s the case, I spoon the nuggets of chicken on top at the end and scatter over a few extra leaves of the herbs, plus a handful of pomegranate seeds – I love the way they glisten like jewels. I also find this a useful recipe when I’m training for a marathon; I swap the couscous for quinoa for a nutritional boost.
FOR THE CHICKEN
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp tomato purée
1 tsp each salt and
2 large chicken breasts, cut into 3cm cubes
FOR THE VEGETABLES AND COUSCOUS
½ small butternut squash, chopped into 3cm cubes
2-3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle over the salad and couscous
3 red onions, chopped into 3cm cubes
1 red and 1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped into 3cm cubes
200ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
juice of 2 limes
4 spring onions,
small handful of mint and coriander leaves, freshly chopped
salt and black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
2. Put the lemon juice, garlic, oil, tomato purée, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mash the tomato purée into the other ingredients using the back of a spoon, then add the chicken cubes and set aside to marinate. You can prepare this up to a day before, if you like. (Not only does this infuse with the flavours of the marinade, but it also ensures that it becomes extra tender on cooking.)
3. Toss the squash with about ½ tablespoon of the oil in a bowl, then tip it into a roasting tin and roast for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add the remaining vegetables to the bowl with the rest of the oil, season and toss well.
4. When the squash has been roasting for 10 minutes, add the other vegetables and any oil in the bowl to the tin and roast for a further 20 minutes until they’re tender and golden at the edges.
5. After all the vegetables have been in for 5 minutes, tip the chicken into a separate ovenproof dish and roast it underneath the vegetables for about 15 minutes until the pieces are golden and cooked through. While everything is roasting, prepare the couscous. Put it in a large bowl, pour over the stock, cover with a lid and leave it to soak – it will be ready to fluff up in about 15 minutes.
6. When the roasting time is up check the chicken: cut through a piece to make sure there are no pink juices remaining.
7. Use a fork to fluff up the couscous and separate all the grains. Pour over the lime juice and tip the spring onions into the bowl along with the herbs, some seasoning and a glug of olive oil. Spoon in the roasted vegetables and chicken. Carefully mix everything together, then spoon on to a large platter and let everyone help themselves.
GET 20 PER CENT OFF TONY’S BOOK
Recipe from Feasts from the Middle East by Tony Kitous, founder of Comptoir Libanais restaurants and delis, to be published on 8 March by HQ, price £20. Tony grew up in Algeria, with a love of home cooking and the food culture of his homeland. In the book he shares the flavour-packed, affordable dishes he loves the most (many inspired by his mum Zohra and by family memories), ranging from easy morning meals to grand dinners with friends. To order a copy for £16 until 11 March, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.