2013-03-07 17.53.15I love the colours of middle eastern food… it always makes me think of Spring. Having made these dishes following a trip to one of my favourite vegetable shops, I could tell that Spring is the air too – fresh, ripe and abundant. This is the time to enjoy local produce to the max.

Since I was attending a Lebanese-food themed night, my sponsor gifted me with a lovely array of products and I decided to make two different couscous dishes.

For both dishes you will need dried couscous, ras el hanout and hot water.

First I reconstituted the packet of 500 g dried couscous by adding 700 ml of hot water to which I had added 3 teaspoons of ras el hanout (amazing mixture of spices mmm!). I figured that this would work to give it a better flavour for my themed dishes, rather than using stock, but you can do this too if you prefer. The couscous is ready to eat after 5 minutes, but you need to fluff it up with a fork. I decided to add some olive oil to make it easier to work with and more palatable. Do this according to taste.

Then I used 2/3 of this couscous to make the first dish and set the rest aside for my second recipe.

For the first recipe you will also need:

  • 1 large aubergine / eggplant
  • Paprika (ajvar) sauce
  • sesame oil – I use Rinatura brand – 2 tablespoons for each batch of aubergine you cook
  • reconstituted couscous
  • olive oil – according to taste
  • brown sugar – 1/2 teaspoon for each batch of aubergine you cook
  • apple cider vinegar – 1 tablespoon for each batch of aubergine you cook
  • 1 or 2 sprigs spring onions
  • handful chopped coriander (cilantro :P)

Start by making caramelized aubergines in this method:

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Chop the aubergines into bite size pieces. Remember that they will shrink as they cook. Cook in small batches (some patience required for this part), it’s very important not to overcrowd your pan. Heat up the pan and add the sesame oil, apple cider vinegar and brown sugar – be careful as they might splash as the heat builds. Stir thoroughly to mix the ingredients then flip the aubergines often until they are browned and cooked through.

When you’re done with all the aubergine place in a large casserole dish to cool.

Next add the Paprika (ajvar) sauce, according to taste. I added the whole jar since I was using a large amount of couscous, but you may use a tablespoon with each cup of couscous or according to taste. The sauce is slightly hot (mild for most), but you may add a small amount of Harissa sauce to increase the spiciness. If you’re unsure, add a small quantity at a time lest you should make the dish too spicy for your liking.

Add the mixed couscous as another layer on top of the aubergines. Now sprinkle with generous quantities of finely chopped coriander and spring onions.

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For the second couscous dish I chose ingredients which are more neutral for those who do not enjoy spicy food. I did not add any ajvar or Harissa sauce; added a touch more olive oil and the following ingredients:

  • chopped cherry tomatoes
  • chopped spring onions (just one for the whole dish)
  • chopped parsley
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper

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