Crispy couscous with pumpkin and tomatoes
We have to be honest and say that this was one of only two or three suppers we genuinely enjoyed during our vegan fortnight. It came as no surprise to us that it was a Yotam Ottolenghi dish. As you might imagine it’s full of colour, texture and wholesomeness – and I actually think a final drizzle of Ottolenghi’s amazing sweet tahini dressing (recipe to follow) is perhaps even better than the suggested yoghurt but we’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Heat the oven to 240C (230C fan/gas 9). Toss the pumpkin or squash with a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, ¾ teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Spread out on an oven tray lined with baking paper and roast for 30 minutes, until cooked through and nicely browned.
Put the onion rounds on a second lined tray, keep them intact, and drizzle with a little of the oil. Sprinkle with half a teaspoon of sugar and a small pinch of S&P, then roast for 18 minutes, carefully flipping them over half way through. They should be softened and deeply charred. Keep warm.
While the vegetables are roasting, make the sauce. On a medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan with a lid, then fry the chopped onion and star anise, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until softened and browned. Add the rest of the garlic and the remaining cinnamon, and cook for 30 seconds longer, or until fragrant. Add the chilli, tomatoes, tomato paste, the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar, a teaspoon and a half of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Cook for 8 – 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
Pour in 500 ml water, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and rich. Measure out approximately 300ml of the sauce (leave the star anise in the sauté pan), pour into a small pan and keep warm. Meanwhile tip the couscous into the remaining sauce and stir to combine. Add 375ml water and quarter of a teaspoon salt, and bring to the boil on a medium-high heat. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to medium and leave to cook undisturbed (this is really important) for 30 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the base and edges of the couscous have crisped up.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until just wilted, stir in the coriander and set aside.
To serve, spoon the couscous on to a serving plate and top with the reserved sauce, pumpkin and spinach, layering as you go, then add the onion rounds. Drizzle with olive oil and serve warm.
This is such a beautifully versatile dish that there are loads of routes you could take when it comes to matching a drink to it.
In terms of wine, we’d say a red Rioja Reserva in the autumn and winter months, and a bold, fruity rosé in the spring and summer. Away from wine, it would suit a glass of dry cider or a non-alcoholic, ginger-based cordial.