To me, Middle Eastern food is exciting, aromatic and beautifully colourful. The flavours are fresh, zingy and vibrant but still comforting and warming.
By 'jewelling' this couscous salad, a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, it adds a lot of colourful herbs, seeds and fruit to your meal giving you a burst of vitamins and nutrients. Couscous is a brilliant store cupboard staple. It keeps for ages, cooks in minutes and is incredibly versatile. By using wholewheat couscous, you quickly give this salad a health kick. There are many benefits of using wholewheat products over their refined counterparts. They have increased fibre, as the grain is intact, and therefore aid in the digestion process. Wholegrain products also have a lower GI than refined products. This means, in a nutshell, that the carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and absorbed at a slower rate, thus making you feel fuller for longer.
Harissa is a hot, aromatic Middle Eastern paste made from chillies, roasted peppers and a variety of spices. If you are yet to try it, I urge you to do so, it is delicious and so versatile.
INGREDIENTS Serves 4
For the chicken:
6 chicken thighs, ideally free-range
2tbsp rose harissa paste (Belazu is the variety I use)
1tbsp olive oil
juice of half a lemon
For the salad:
240g wholewheat couscous
a handful of chopped parsley
a handful of chopped mint
50g pomegranate seeds
1 red onion, finely diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely sliced
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2tbsp olive oil
a sprinkling of dried rose petals (optional)
If you have time, the night before, mix together all of your ingredients for the chicken, bar the oil, and leave in the fridge to marinade. If not a couple hours before will be absolutely fine.
Place chicken thighs on a roasting tin, drizzle with the oil and roast in a hot oven (200ºC) for half an hour.
In the meantime make your salad. Place your couscous, turmeric and a good pinch of salt into a heatproof bowl. Pour over freshly boiled water until it is about a centimetre higher than the level of the couscous. Cover in cling film and leave for 5 to 10 minutes. This method works every time...no matter the quantity.
Once your couscous has cooked, fluff it up with a fork and allow to cool a little.
Add all of the other salad ingredients to your couscous and stir them through with a good pinch of salt and twist of pepper. Your couscous should have now become beautifully colourful and jewelled.
Once your chicken thighs are cooked through, remove them from the oven and shred them with two forks, making sure you mix in all the honey glaze that may be on the bottom of the pan.
Place your salad on plates and top with your chicken.
Grab a fork, dig in and think of sunnier, Moroccan climes.
Words and recipe by by Nicola Richman