Ryad Choudhury

Written by

March 9, 2020


Here at Islamic Relief, we’ve been encouraging each other to eat less meat and more veggie dishes.

Why? Well, because it’s proven that eating less meat is the number one thing that we can do to help the environment and tackle climate change.

That’s why, here at Islamic Relief, we’re bringing you a monthly veggie/vegan recipe each month.

Last time, Maria brought you a delicious Italian recipe for Melanzane alla Parmigina. So this month, I’d like to share a lovely recipe from a sister who married into an Algerian family.

veggie couscous

Yep, it’s couscous a.k.a berbusha. Yummy!

A traditional Amazigh (Berber) dish, couscous is usually served on Friday as a big family dish. Why Friday? Well, it’s the special day of Jumm’ah.

There’s just one thing that makes this dish not quite so traditional…. Yep, this time, it’s meat-free!

Now, this sister’s husband was definitely sceptical about a meat-free version of this traditionally meaty dish – although there’s always vegetables included. However, when a veggie guest came to dinner, he gave the taste-test a thumbs up.

It’s definitely a tasty dish – there’s enough flavour without the need for any meat.

So, here’s her recipe for vegetable couscous. She learnt this from her family and the list of vegetables can also be extended. You can be pretty flexible with the recipe– as long as you include the key ingredients.

It takes a while to cook but it’s not hard once you know what to put in and it’s definitely worth every second. Plus: leftovers are great re-heated.

So, overall this makes a great meal for a family get-together on a weekend.

Bsahtekum – enjoy!

 

Level: Easy

Serves: 4 people

Total time (preparation and cooking): Around 2 hours

 

Ingredients:

White onions x 3-4 (peeled)

Garlic x 4 cloves (peeled)

Vegetable stock cubes x 4

Chickpeas (400g cans x 2 – washed and drained)

Carrots x 4 (peeled)

Courgettes x 4

Turnips x 4  (peeled) (note: ideally not the long Chinese variety as these take longer to cook. If you cannot find a smaller variety, then two of these are enough)

Couscous x 400g (Note: to make cooking easier and quicker, purchase the pre-steamed standard variety available in the UK)

Red chilli powder/flakes

Butter

Olive oil

Ras el-hanout spice mix (available from Turkish and North-African shops)

Salt

Black pepper

 

Optional extras:

Potatoes (x4)

Tomato (1 x 400g can of plum whole tomatoes)

 

To garnish:

Fresh coriander

Fresh chilli pepper (Anaheim variety – available in Turkish and North-African shops. If not available, then other varieties may be used)

Method:

 

1. Prepare your sauce base:

saucepan for veggie couscous

Add olive oil (roughly 2-3 tablespoons) to a large deep pan (enough to carry a lot of liquid) and heat. While heating, peel your onion and garlic.

When the oil is ready, grate the onion and garlic and add to the oil. It’s important to grate the onion and garlic as it needs to be soft – eventually almost invisible – in texture.

Cook on a medium/high heat until soft (but not brown!). Add water and a little oil if the mix becomes dry (the dish is not supposed to be oily in texture).

 

2. Add your stock:

Next, add 2 stock cubes with a little water and stir in, ensuring there are no lumps.

 

3. Prepare your vegetables (part 1):

carrots for veggie couscous

Cut your carrots, turnips and courgettes longways into halves or quarters – depending on their size. You should be making large long thick pieces (or chunks in the case of the turnips).

Add the carrots and leave to lightly fry (not brown) in the mix, followed by the turnips around 5 minutes later.

Please note:

  • If you are using the longer variety of turnips (not advised) – these take much longer to cook and should be started before the carrots.
  • If you wish to add potatoes – simply peel and cut into large chunks and add after the turnips and carrot mix.

 

4. Prepare your vegetables (part 2):

Once slightly softened (but not cooked), add your courgettes and cover the vegetable mix fully with (non-boiled) water.

 

5. Add your flavour:

veggie couscous spices

Add salt and black pepper the mix. Next, add chilli powder/flakes (to your liking/according to the strength of the variety you are using) and the extra 2 stock cubes.

Then add your key ingredient: the ras el-hanout spice mix. Don’t overspice – add around two tablespoons till the liquid becomes brown. You will adjust/test the flavour later.

Leave to boil on a high heat – cover with a lid and stir regularly.

Please note:

  • We prefer a “white” sauce. However, you can make a “red” sauce with tomato. To make, simply add very finely chopped plum tomatoes to the mix – do not add too much (this is not a “tomato dish” – the flavour should not overpower the spices).

 

6. Cook and top up your sauce:

The flavours need to infuse, so leave the mix to cook for around an hour to an hour and a half.

Periodically check the mix and add further ras el-hanout, salt, chilli flakes/powder, black pepper and water as/when required.

Leave the sauce to cook – do not let the mix dry or stick. You are looking for a sauce with plenty of juice – not oily, not too wet and with plenty of flavour.

 

7. Add the chickpeas:

chickpeas

When the mixture is already boiling nicely and the other vegetables are softening and becoming infused with the seasoning, add the chickpeas and further seasoning.

Turn the heat to medium/low and wait till the sauce is fully infused and the vegetables are fully soft.

 

8. Prepare your couscous:

This a cheat but Algerian-approved method! Most varieties of couscous in the UK are pre-steamed – which is good for saving time. However, instructions often do not stipulate cooking – wrong in our case!

We want a soft fluffy texture. But remember: couscous expands and can get sticky/hard, lumpy or even mushy if you add to much/too little water.

For the best couscous, you will need to repeat this process for each portion if you decide to use a smaller dish.

Take a large Pyrex glass dish and fill to the one-third mark with couscous. Add enough cold water to just cover the couscous – no more! Add a small amount of olive oil.

Microwave for around 7-10 mins – stopping halfway to stir and “fluff up” with a fork”. Once finished, add a knob of butter and stir in, “fluffing up” the couscous with a fork. And it’s ready!

The couscous must be the right texture: dry but soft-cooked, not hard, but not mushy with no excess liquid. If the mix is too wet, cook again in the microwave. If too hard/dry, add a little water and cook.

Repeat till you have enough for one bowl per person. A large Pyrex dish should produce enough couscous for around two people. Whilst the couscous is being prepared, check on your sauce and switch off once ready.

 

9. Serve and enjoy!

veggie couscous

If you want to go truly authentic and also follow the Sunnah: eat out of the same bowl – ideally a large serving dish. Bonus points if it’s a North-African style dish!

However, if you prefer, you can of course eat individually in separate bowls.

To serve, simply add a base of couscous, add the vegetables and pour the juice on top. Top up with sauce as preferred/required. Remember: it’s not a soup but the couscous must not be super dry!

To finish, top with fresh coriander (finely chopped or adding a few sprigs) and finely-chopped green chilli (ideally the Anaheim light green variety).

 

Serving suggestion:

mint tea

Serve with French bread or Maghrebi bread on the side. Follow with fruit/dessert and with mint tea (green tea, sugar and mint leaves boiled together), along with North-African/Arab sweets!

Bsahtekum! Enjoy your authentic Algerian vegetable couscous!

 

If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, keep an eye out for more here on the blog. We’ll be featuring a monthly meat-free recipe as part of our campaign to stem the tide of climate change.

In the meantime, you can help fight the effects of climate change by writing to your MP to call on the UK government to keep climate change on the agenda. Simply click here to fill in our simple, easy-to-use form and take action today!   

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