Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wreck the Casbah

245. Golden Root-Vegetable Couscous with Chorizo
246. Harissa
247. Great Aunt Myra's Moroccan Orange and Date Salad

This stew is a previous incarnation of the Tunisian lamb ball stew with couscous that appears in Feast. Having made the Tunisian stew before, and liking it very much, I was looking forward to this one.

I got up at 11 this morning, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of fresh bread with the parentals. After that, I slowly started working on today's lunch, which ended up taking more time than expected. However, we were all sufficiently carboliciously satisfied to last us until lunch was ready, so there was no rush or pressure to get lunch out fast. It was an enjoyable process.

To start the stew, cut up all your vegetables. Well actually, if you choose to soak your own chickpeas, then you will have to start the day before by soaking them. I did this, and started cooking them whilst we were eating breakfast.

But back to the vegetables - there's zucchini, butternut squash (what on earth is a kabocha squash?), parsnip, swede, turnip, carrot and onion.

prepared veggies

Cook the onion in oil, then add spices and garlic, followed by the vegetables. Then pour in stock and 1/2 a tin of tomatoes. (I was halving the quantities, and thought that 1/4 tin of tomatoes was a stupid quantity, so I substituted with a large splash of tomato passata, from the half-used bottle in the fridge). After this comes the chickpeas, some raisins, orange zest and harissa.

Speaking of the harissa, I made it whilst the stew was simmering. Nigella's harissa recipe consists of dried chillis, soaked in water, pounded with garlic, salt, and dry roasted spices before having vinegar and oil added. Nigella says to use 60g of dried chillis, but to remove the seeds. I could not be arsed removing the seeds, so just left them in and reduced the quantity. Mum and I were sneezing like crazy as I chopped them up. Warning: Harissa is powerful stuff. One small teaspoonful makes the whole stew hot. It turns it up a notch. BAM!

Ok, so onto the couscous. Rather than the usual soak-in-boiling-water method, Nigella says to soak and then steam it. I'd never tried this method before, as it seemed too fiddly. You have to soak the couscous in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain it, and steam it for 15. I put it in a metal dish, dotted butter on top, stuck it in a bamboo steamer and put the whole lot on top of the simmering stew. (It is Nigella's suggestion to dovetail the whole operation).


Whilst the couscous was steaming, I sliced up the oranges for the salad and assembled it, and cooked the chorizo.

cooking - there's the stew in the silver pot, with the couscous on top. Chorizo are cooking in the frying pan on the left, and the syrup for the orange salad (see below) is boiling in the silver saucepan at the back.

To cook the chorizo, you seal them on all sides in a pan, throw in a glass of wine, and let it cook for 10 minutes until the wine has evaporated.

And then finally... lunch was served!

Stew - I love the warm red sauce and the golden colour that the saffron imparts.


Harissa - it looks less red than you might imagine because I used a smaller quantity of chillies, but because all the seeds are included, it's as fiery as you'd expect, if not more.

Dad: Hey Mum, you should try this sauce. It's good... but fuck me it's hot!

Aah, my dad talks like me too!

my plate

The couscous is a wonderful, plain blanket against the strongly spicy flavours of the stew, chorizo and harissa. Having never had proper Spanish chorizo before (the ones I used for the Spanish Stew were disappointingly inauthentic), I can say conclusively that they totally rock. And I am glad to be back to pork.

The quantity I made was supposed to feed 3, but it would have easily fed 5 or more. I dunno, maybe we have bigger zucchini in Australia.

I don't know much about Great Aunt Myra, but I do know that she makes a mean salad. (Remember the pea, mint and avocado one?) Check out my gratifyingly 70's-style presentation.

70's salad

Great Aunt Myra's Moroccan Orange and Date salad consists of peeled and sliced oranges (I peeled them after slicing, much easier), halved dates, slivered almonds, drizzled with a syrup. The syrup itself is made of water, sugar, orange juice and orange alcohol (I used cointreau). Nigella concedes that the alcohol content makes it very un-Moroccan, but seeing as I already chose to have chorizo cooked in red wine, I'd already lost hope of having a properly Moroccan meal. And I believe that if you're getting wet, you may as well go swimming. So, in my brazen un-Moroccan-ness, I defiantly stuck George Michael's Greatest Hits CD into the player, and turned it up with pride.

The salad is surprisingly fabulous. It doesn't seem like much on the page, but there seems to be some sort of wonderful synergy between the ingredients - the supersweet dates against the refreshing orange slices, sprinkled with toasted slivered almonds (not "slithered", as the typo in my book says) and covered with the light syrup, which itself makes the dates glisten invitingly. It looks beautiful (well, I do love kitsch), and more importantly, tastes brilliant. I used 1 and a half oranges to start with, but we loved it so much that we sliced up an extra orange to soak up all the remaining syrup.

This was a great lunch. The two dishes aren't suggested in the same menu, but they did complement each other very well, the salad, light and fragrant, is a wonderful finish to a fiery meal.

Daniel was working during the day so did not eat with us, but he tried some when he came home.

Daniel: Hey. That sauce... pointing to the harissa... is fucking awesome.


spaceling said...

Oh, man, I have got to make that harissa.

I'm really loving this blog, by the way - it inspired me to finally go out and get a copy of How to Eat!

Randi said...

Kabocha is a Japanese squash. It is hard, shaped like a squatty pumpkin, it is has a dull colored deep green skin with some celadon-to white-colored stripes, intense yellow-orange color on the inside. Its even sweeter than a butternut squash.

domesticgoddess said...

if you say it's better than the stew in feast, then i've got to try it. mmmm, this entire menu sounds wonderful. great aunt myra is a legend!

Spot said...

hi sarah,
sorry to go offtopic, but recently picked up Julie & Julia by Julie Powell from the bookshop. It's about the author's year-long project of cooking all the rcipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it!

Imagine if you published your HTE Project! The blog's certainly been entertaining enough...and your trump card - the pictures!