7 May 2011

Ottolenghi's Green Couscous : a revelation in flavours!

So.  Couscous.  When hubby suggested we have couscous with our devilled sausages (recipe to follow), I laughed.  I laughed because every single attempt at injecting flavour into couscous, to date (as was) has been a catastrophic failure.

I've gone down the herbs & lemon route, I've gone down the cumin & eastern spice route.  I've even gone down the "Ainsley's couscous in a packet" route, just in case I was missing something there.  ~shakes head~  All have been devoid of the kind of flavour that makes you look forward to couscous appearing on the menu.

Until now.

Now let it be said and agreed that Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi are magicians.  Certainly with food, they are.  I'm not sure about the "produce a penny from behind your ear" type of magic, but I wouldn't put it past Yotam Ottolenghi - he looks the sort who could do that.

The moment hubby suggested couscous, I knew I had to take some serious advice on the subject - and where better to go for couscous advice than the two Ottolenghi cook books, "The Cook Book" and "Plenty".

I will admit that I rejected the first couscous recipe I found therein, but that was largely because the ingredients were hugely expensive and wouldn't particularly have sat well beside a sausage.  "Green Couscous" (page 255 for those who have "Plenty" on their bookshelves) didn't appear - at first reading - terribly hopeful.  However, having scanned the ingredients I discover that we had almost everything barring a couple of the herbs.  As I'm always keen (and even keener, now) to try another Ottolenghi recipe, we were on.

As with a lot of couscous recipes, it's not that difficult to make - provided you have a good blender/processor that will chop herbs down to a fine paste.  We've got one of those hand blenders (left over from when son & heir was a baby) that has a tub which you can plug the blender into - that did the herbs perfectly.

As for the flavour, well it'd be more true to say that it's a case of flavours, not flavour.  Everything combines most beautifully yet each and every flavour stands out in multiple layers of surprise.  I'd recommend using coarse sea salt for it, as the grains when they are tumbled through the couscous leave delicious trails of saltiness behind them.  Hubby was amazed to discover that there was only a quarter of a teaspoon of coarsely ground sea salt involved (not counting the stock cube, of course).

It turned out that my pack of dill had decided to dissolve into green slush, so that's one difference from the original recipe, as is the lack of fresh tarragon (which I couldn't find anywhere).  I substituted a teaspoonful of dried tarragon and nobody noticed it, so that's fine.  I wouldn't recommend doing the entire recipe in dried herbs of course!  Another difference is that the original recipe demanded a green chilli and all we had in the fridge were red ones, but again I suspect that it didn't really matter.

So the recipe you have here is the recipe that I made and that hubby and I enjoyed so much.  Son & heir, needless to say, took a teensy tiny forkful and decreed he didn't like it and left all of his.  ~shrug~  Hey ho, it was expected and his Dad and I polished it off for him, so no harm done.  If you're lucky enough to have a copy of "Plenty" on your bookshelves, the original recipe can be found on page 255.

Just how "Ottolenghi" does that look?

HERBY COUSCOUS (after Ottolenghi's Green Couscous)  Serves 4

Ingredients :

150g couscous
160ml boiling vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil (for frying)
quarter tsp of sea salt
quarter tsp of ground cumin
3 spring onions, trimmed & finely sliced
1 red chilli, top & tailed, most seeds removed and finely sliced
30g rocket, coarsely chopped.

Herb paste :
20g fresh parsley, roughly chopped
20g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried tarragon
3 tbsp mint, roughly chopped
90ml extra virgin olive oil.

Method :

1.  Place the couscous in a large bowl and cover with the boiling stock.

2.  Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, fry the onion in the olive oil on a medium heat until golden and completely soft.  Add the salt & cumin, mix lightly and leave to cool slightly.

4.  Make the herb paste by placing all the ingredients in a good processor and blitzing until smooth.

5.  Add the herb paste to the couscous and mix well, fluffing it up with a fork.  Next, add the cooked onion, spring onions, chilli and rocket and mix through.


Printable Version



  1. Yum, I love this recipe. I have the first ottolenghi book, will have to take a look at this!

  2. This looks so lovely, Jenny. It must taste amazing - I love all these flavours!! I have to say I adore couscous, even plain, but dressed up and fancy like this - even better! You are right, I'm sure it would be a fab accompaniment to my Chicken Tagine. Eb x

    1. The herbs are divine, of course, but the real beauty is the fried onion combined with the sea salt. When one or the other hits your tongue in conjunction with the other ingredients, it's just music! :)


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