In my family, we had a funny tradition. For as long as I can remember, and almost religiously, Saturday night was “Couscous Night”; when 6pm came a ringing, my Dad would drive down town to his friend, proud owner of a “zinc” ( small French bar) in a corner of Marechal Leclerc Street. “The Duke’s Mill” if I remember well, with a Formica counter, a couple of tables and a pin ball machine near the toilets. Downstairs, right underneath the bar, was an impeccably dressed dining room only used at weekends, where Joel’s wife would cook only one dish: Couscous. When the days of take away food didn’t really exist yet, at least in my town – or so I thought – Dad would drop a big pot with its couscous steamer and collect it at the beginning of the evening, full to the bream.
I cook a “Couscous” at least once a year, especially at this time, when summer and autumn shake hands. To me, it marries the colours of one season with the warmth and comfort of the darker one to come. Here is a quick version, controversial to some as I like to bring a bit of tomato passata as a special guest, but hey, it is of Mediterranean origins after all! Anyway, here is my take on this wonderful North African dish that as coloured the olfactory senses of my pre and post teenage hood memories.
- 1 nice turnip
- 3-4 carrots
- 1 large onion
- 2 red peppers
- 2 courgettes
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 3 small dried figs
- A small bunch of fresh mint
- A wee bit of fresh rosemary
- 75cl of passata
- 1 heaped tsp of cumin
- 1 heaped tsp of cinnamon
- 1 heaped tsp of ground coriander
- 1 pinch of chillies flaked
- ¼ of a whole nutmeg grated
- 4 Merguez or cooking chorizo sausages ( Gubbeen to keep it Irish)
- 1 20cl glass of Couscous semolina
- 1 20cl glass of water
- Salt and pepper
How to… In pictures:
First, select your vegetables carefully…
Start chopping the vegetables, but keep the courgettes until last; with a generous bit of olive oil, start sweating ( frying) the lot with a good pinch of salt…
Then, start a bit of sweating ( frying with salt and olive oil)…
Mix the spices together and get crushing on that garlic…
Now, all you have to do is to throw the spices with the vegetables and the crushed garlic goes in there too… More “sweating”, well, at least for a little while…
At that stage, I prepare the courgettes in a chefy way but before, I pour in the whole 75cl of tomato passata…
Before serving, you need a bit of sweet in there; I didn’t have any raisins but had some dried organic figs instead. Half of them went in the stew, the other in the couscous…
Then the couscous semolina; one volume for one volume of hot water… I chopped some mint and rosemary and mixed it with olive oil.
I chopped the mint and rosemary real fine and then mixed it with the couscous…
Put the sausages whole in the simmering stew and let it froo-froo “ing” for another 15 minutes. And that’s it really serve hot and… Enjoy!