Saffron couscous with peppers

    1 hour

    Serve this salad warm or cool as a main dish for 4, or as a main course accompaniment for 6. Either way, it is a flavoursome low-fat vegetarian dish that has real meal appeal. Saffron, which brings the taste and colour of the Middle East to the couscous, is readily available from larger supermarkets.

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    Serves: 4 

    • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
    • 1 large yellow pepper, seeded and cut into wide strips
    • 1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into widestrips
    • 2 courgettes, halved lengthways, then cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) chunks
    • 4 ½ tsp lemon juice
    • harissa or other chilli sauce, to taste
    • 2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
    • large handful of fresh coriander leaves, mint or parsley, or a combination of these, coarsely chopped
    • salt and pepper
    • Couscous
    • 550 ml (19 fl oz) vegetable stock
    • 10–12 saffron threads
    • 340 g (12 oz) couscous
    • 1 bay leaf, torn in half
    • 50 g (1¾ oz) raisins or sultanas
    • 15 g (½ oz) butter
    • 2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped

    Prep:20min  ›  Cook:40min  ›  Ready in:1hr 

    1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6). Place the garlic and oil in a small bowl and set aside to infuse while the oven heats. Lay the rosemary sprigs in a roasting tin.
    2. Meanwhile, for the couscous, put the stock and saffron in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then cover, remove from the heat and leave to infuse.
    3. Using your hands, rub the pepper and courgette pieces with a little of the garlic-flavoured oil so they are well coated. Place the peppers in the roasting tin on top of the rosemary and roast for 10 minutes. Then add the courgettes and continue roasting for 20–25 minutes, turning the vegetables over once or twice, until they are just tender and slightly charred.
    4. Pour the remaining garlic-infused oil into a large bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice, and harissa and seasoning to taste to make a dressing.
    5. As soon as the vegetables are cooked, transfer them to the bowl containing the dressing and add the tomatoes. Stir to coat with the dressing, then set aside to cool.
    6. Bring the saffron-infused stock to the boil. Add the couscous, bay leaf and raisins or sultanas. Stir well, then cover and remove from the heat. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.
    7. Add the butter to the couscous and place over a moderate heat. Cook for 1–2 minutes, fluffing with a fork to separate the grains. Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the spring onions and season to taste. Leave the cousous to cool until just warm or allow it to cool completely, as preferred.
    8. Place the couscous on a serving platter. Top with the vegetables and any dressing remaining in the bowl, scatter the chopped herbs over and serve. Lightly grilled pitta bread, cut into strips, is the ideal accompaniment.

    Some more ideas

    For a heartier dish, add 1 can chickpeas, butter beans or flageolet beans, about 400 g, drained and rinsed, to the hot vegetables. * For a meat-based main course, add spicy roasted lamb. Combine 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil with 1 tsp each ground coriander and cumin and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Rub this mixture over 400 g (14 oz) well-trimmed lamb neck fillets and marinate for 30 minutes. When the vegetables are cooked, place the lamb on a rack in a roasting tin and roast for about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes, then slice thinly.

    Plus points

    Couscous is low in fat and high in carbohydrate and fibre. Mixing couscous with delicious roasted vegetables makes a main dish that can be a lower fat alternative to a lamb stew and couscous. * Weight for weight, peppers contain over twice as much vitamin C as oranges. Although some of the vitamin C will be destroyed during cooking, useful amounts will remain.

    Each serving provides

    A, C * B1, B6, copper, potassium

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