Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Sundried tomato couscous

I grew to like couscous during my time in the UK. It makes a nice change from potatoes, pasta and rice and also makes a lovely salad during warmer days. It also packs well in lunch boxes (being a filling and dense carbohydrate), making it particularly suitable for bento.

For those who have not come across them before, couscous are small granules made from semolina wheat. It is the primary staple in North and West Africa (e.g. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya) but has also become quite popular in countries like France due to immigrant influence. Traditional couscous takes a while to cook but the couscous sold in most Western supermarkets has been pre-steamed and dried, making them very quick and easy to prepare (great for dinner in a hurry!). Just add boiling water or stock to the couscous, cover tightly for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Properly cooked couscous should be light and fluffy, not gummy or gritty, (usually from too little/much water or steaming for too long/short). You can add add a little butter or olive oil for flavour, mix well and it is ready to serve.


Other than the basic version above, couscous can be dressed with up various ingredients depending on what you have on hand (e.g. lemon juice and zest, chopped parsley or coriander/cilantro, chopped red peppers, chopped cucumber, raisins). This couscous dish is made with sundried tomatoes, another ingredient that I have grown to love during my time in the UK. While they are a staple of Italian kitchens, they are not that common in North America and tend to be used in chef's kitchens. Having said that, they are easy to find in grocers and supermarkets these days. Sundried tomatoes has a lovely concentrated flavour that is great for pastas, salads and soups. I tend to use sundried tomatoes packed in oil that can be used straight out of the jar. Once opened, the tomatoes are good for about a month, but make sure that they are covered in olive oil (top up if necessary). When you finish the sundried tomatoes, don't throw out the oil! It is packed with of flavour from the tomatoes and often with garlic and other herbs too. It makes a great dressing for salads and pastas. If you buy packets of sundried tomatoes, they need to be rehydrated in hot water for about 30 minutes before use. Reserve the soaking liquid and add them to the recipe. If you are using sundried tomatoes in a soup or stew, just add them in without soaking.

Ingredients (serve 2):

2/3 cup or 155g couscous
1 cup/250ml hot chicken/vegetable stock or water
3 pieces of sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped (or snipped into small pieces with kitchen scissors)
2 tbsp sundried tomato oil
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

1. Place the couscous in a large bowl or pan. Pour in boiling water or stock and cover with a tight fitting lid or cling film. Leave to steam for 5 minutes.
2. Fluff up the couscous with a fork. Add the sundried tomatoes, soaking olive oil and parsley. Mix well and serve.

This is the bento I made last week with roast chicken, steamed green beans tossed in olive oil and cherry tomatoes. The chicken was leftover from dinner when I made oven roasted chicken legs. I then placed the chicken breast pieces alongside the legs during the last 30 minutes of cooking time (to prevent them from overcooking).



mook said...

your bento always look so elegant....

Mrs Ergül said...

Both couscous and sundried tomato are food I will like to venture into!

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