Persian-style squash couscous

    Persian-style squash couscous

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    1hr


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    About this recipe: Wonderfully exotic and colourful, this vegetarian salad captures the flavours of ancient Persian cooking. Dates and sultanas are gently simmered with wine, spices and garlic, to flavour couscous, and then topped with roasted butternut and patty pan squashes, peppers and orange.

    Ingredients
    Serves: 4 

    • 1 butternut squash, about 750 g (1 lb 10 oz), peeled
    • 1 red pepper, halved and seeded
    • 1 yellow pepper, halved and seeded
    • 225 g (8 oz) baby patty pan squashes, halved if large
    • 1 orange, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
    • 4 bay leaves
    • 1 cinnamon stick, halved
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • ½ tsp crushed dried chillies (optional)
    • Date and sultana couscous
    • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 75 g (2½ oz) stoned dates, chopped
    • 75 g (2½ oz) sultanas
    • 1 cinnamon stick, halved
    • 2 cm (¾ in) piece fresh root ginger, finely chopped
    • 150 ml (5 fl oz) dry white wine
    • 250 g (8½ oz) couscous
    • 1 can chickpeas, about 400 g, drained and rinsed
    • 300 ml (10 fl oz) boiling water
    • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
    • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
    • juice of 1 orange
    • salt and pepper

    Method
    Prep:1hr  ›  Ready in:1hr 

    1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF, gas mark 6). Cut the butternut squash in half lengthways, remove the seeds and cut across into thick slices. Cut each pepper half into 12 pieces. Put the squash and peppers in a roasting tin with the patty pans, orange, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and garlic. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with the dried chillies, if using. Roast for 25 minutes, turning once, until the vegetables are browned and tender.
    2. Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic, and fry for 5 minutes or until pale golden. Add the dates, sultanas, cinnamon, ginger and wine. Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the couscous and chickpeas, then add the boiling water. Cover and leave for 5 minutes.
    3. Add the parsley, mint and orange juice to the couscous, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix and fluff up with a fork. Spoon onto 4 plates and top with the roasted vegetables. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Another idea

    For an aubergine and pearl barley salad, use 2 aubergines instead of the butternut squash, and roast with the peppers as in the main recipe. Instead of the date and sultana couscous, put 225 g (8 oz) pearl barley in a saucepan with 1 chopped onion, 1 halved cinnamon stick and 900 ml (1½ pints) vegetable or chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour or until the barley is just tender. Drain if necessary and cool, then toss with 85 g (3 oz) toasted walnut pieces, 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint, 1 tbsp chopped parsley, the grated zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Serve topped with the vegetables.

    Plus point

    Dried dates are richer in potassium than fresh dates and contain more concentrated amounts of niacin, copper, iron and magnesium. Both dried dates and sultanas are a valuable source of soluble fibre.

    Each serving provides

    A, B1, B6, C, E, folate, niacin, iron * calcium, potassium * B2, zinc

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