Mrs Green swore last year that we would take a holiday somewhere sunny every year around February to escape the grim social realism feel of the first quarter of the year. So this year we made good on that oath and went to visit old friends recently posted in Tunisia. We have just returned from that trip and what a welcome break it was. The sun was out, even if the nights were cold, and we had lunch outside every day, picked ripe oranges off the tree, and let Little Boy Green and Baby Green loose in the garden every day to “play with” the (poor) tortoises. The sight of the blue Mediterranean left us yearning for summer, eager for the return of the sun to these shores.
We did very little, and only made the most perfunctory of efforts at sightseeing, which made the trip a holiday. We did, however, make a daily visit to the local fruit and vegetable market where the strawberries and oranges and melons made all of us feel like there was a tiny festival going on each day. We didn’t go to eat a meal in a restaurant once, but instead we sort of replicated some of the local cuisine at home, using local fruit and vegetable ingredients and the ubiquitous couscous as a starting point. We were impressed by the availability of wholegrain options in every category of starch and staple. This, together with the quality of the local produce, made it very easy to eat well, that is, to cook healthy and effortlessly delicious food. It’s not a million miles from that old public secret about Italian cuisine - very little done to the best quality ingredients.
Alas, now we’re home and feeling a little underwhelmed by the greyness and a little dreamy about living somewhere on the Mediterranean. So what do we do? We make couscous (of course) to remind ourselves of the good times. What else do we do? (Apart from Mrs Green hitting google to look at rent and property prices all around the Mediterranean.) We buy a popcorn maker. We thought this would go some way to compensate Little Boy Green for the loss of the tortoise family he “befriended” (read: terrorised with his friendship efforts). But no, he barely cracked a polite half-smile at our hyperbolic enthusing about the possibility of popcorn! At home! Whenever you like! As much as you like! Flavoured by whatever crazy foolish flavours you choose! He was much more enthusiastic about having couscous for breakfast. So that’s what he’s getting, the little ingrate. Couscous for breakfast, pretty much along the lines of this recipe.
Ingredients: (Serves 2 hungry adults, a toddler and a baby)
Vegetable Stew: (We use what veg we have, so below is really just a suggestion)
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 1 potato
- 2 zucchini (a.k.a. courgette)
- 1 carrot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp harissa (optional, but recommended)
- 2 cups water (500ml)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 cups wholegrain couscous
- 2 cups water (500ml)
- 1tsp low-salt bouillon (optional)
- 1tbsp olive oil
- Finely dice onion and garlic and place in a large pot (with a lid) along with the harissa, salt and pepper and a cup of water then simmer until the water has reduced and a thick paste has formed.
- Chop the remaining veg into bite sized chunks and add to the pot with one cup of water and the chickpeas (drained and rinsed).
- Cover the pot and allow the stew to simmer for 20 minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes and cooking for a further 15 minutes.
- Check the consistency of the stew and add more water as needed.
- Meanwhile, place the couscous into a bowl (preferably one with a lid) and add the bouillon and olive oil, mix well until the couscous is moistened and resembles wet sand.
- Pour 2 cups of just boiled water over the couscous and allow to rest, covered, for at least 5 minutes until fluffy.