“Couscous” from “How to Eat”

“How to Eat” has been with me for 19 years. I got it on my first birthday in London in 1999. I had a newborn son and I was still trying to find my feet both as a Londoner and as a mother. My husband gave it to me purely because there was a whole section in the back devoted to how to feed children. Little did I know then how important this cookbook would be to me, 19 years later. It would definitely be one of my Desert Island Cookbooks.

I can’t possible recall when I first made the recipe for couscous, but I do know that once I started making it, I never stopped.

I’ve made this recipe so often now that I know it by heart. 100 grams of couscous to 150 millilitres of stock, and for our family, 300 grams of couscous to 450 millilitres of stock is a good amount. Put the two together, pop a lid on it, wait 10 minutes (or thereabouts), add some olive oil or butter, fluff it up, and it’s done.

In the ensuing years, I’ve adapted and changed this recipe countless times. Some popular variations include: adding roasted vegetables, adding feta, adding chopped flat-leaf parsley, sometimes doing all three. In the above photo, I added a new Waitrose frozen roasted vegetable assortment, which worked a treat.

Couscous carried my boys through their childhood and beyond. Soon after I started making this regularly, a new British friend (who is now an old British friend) said to me, “This couscous is perfect. It’s just the way it should be.” High praise indeed.

Once again, thanks Nigella.

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“Couscous” from “How to Eat”

“Lemon Sole with preserved lemon, coriander and capers” from “Stirring Slowly”

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Kirstin: It’s a rainy monday in August. And it’s fish for dinner!

Miles: I love fish!

Kirstin: Tom is doing that thing where he just eats because he doesn’t want to stop and talk.

Tom: That’s because it’s so yum!

Kirstin: This recipe is supposed to take only 15 minutes to cook and it probably would have if I hadn’t kept messing up. My favourite part was when I managed to spray myself with all the defrosted fish water.

Tom: Ah. That’s what you were doing in the bathroom!

Kirstin: Yes, I was washing all my clothes as they smelled of fish! Also I couldn’t make this recipe look as pretty as it does in the book.

Tom: I think that’s because their fish had more skin on!

Kirstin: I might not chop it into strips next time and just fry the fish whole. We also kept the salad separate from the couscous, but that was just for Miles.

Miles: I am hoping you make this again!

Kirstin: Oh good! So am I!

“Lemon Sole with preserved lemon, coriander and capers” from “Stirring Slowly”

“Seared Tuna, Sicilian Couscous and Greens” from “Everyday Superfood”

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Having a friend around for lunch and catching up with them is always a good excuse to make a new recipe. And I have to admit I chose this particular one because it looked so good in the book. Lucky for us both, it was as yummy as it looked, even though I couldn’t find wholewheat couscous or Swiss chard for love nor money in deepest, darkest South London. The couscous was particularly lovely, super easy and will most definitely be made again. I might use baby asparagus next time instead though, so as not to have to slice the bigger asparagus along the length which was rather more time-consuming than I had thought it would be. And nutmeg on the tuna was a really lovely touch. Yes, a winning recipe all round.

“Seared Tuna, Sicilian Couscous and Greens” from “Everyday Superfood”

“Pan-Fried Salmon with Tomato Couscous” from Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube

Kirstin: So the whole cooking while food tube on is a bit of a laugh. It’s like Jamie’s in the room, cooking with you. But it means I can’t listen to music as I cook; only his annoying background music. I watched this a couple of times before I made it, because I couldn’t find the instructions anywhere in printed form. And the only way I could get the list of ingredients was also to watch it all the way through.

Tom: That sounds a bit annoying!

Kirstin: I do think they could at least put the list of ingredients underneath the video. Would be well helpful. Did you like it?

Tom: I did! I love asparagus and the salmon was super crispy.

Kirstin: Yes, he had a fantastic method for making the skin crispy which I shall be using again. Ella, what did you think?

Ella: I don’t like salmon. Much.

Kirstin: I know. But we’ve talked about this before and you need to have salmon on a weekly basis at least. I saw you trying some asparagus!

Ella: I liked that!

Kirstin: Good for you!

And here’s the video if you too want to make this yummy recipe.

“Pan-Fried Salmon with Tomato Couscous” from Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube

“Lamb Kofta Tagine”, “Golden Couscous” and “Butterscotch Apple Pudding” from “Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen”

Louis: Aunty Woffy meatballs! Louis eat meatballs with Aunty Woffy!

Kate: I’m flattered to be associated with meatballs.

Anna: Kofta actually. But he knows meatballs, so that’s what I’ve told him they are. I’ll be interested to see if he eats them.

Peter: This is nice.

Anna: How many meatballs would you like Louis?

Louis: Two.

Anna: How much couscous?

Louis: No. No couscous.

Kate: Well I like it. In fact I’ll have a few more meatballs.

Anna: The pudding is a bit of a failure I’m afraid.

Peter: It tastes fine.

Anna: But there’s no sponge to speak of. It’s a sweet soggy mess. I think the cooking apples gave off too much moisture. It’s similar to Bill Granger’s banana butterscotch pudding recipe but doesn’t work as well. Oh well.

“Lamb Kofta Tagine”, “Golden Couscous” and “Butterscotch Apple Pudding” from “Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen”

“Crispy Fillet of Sea Bass with Herby Couscous” from “Gino’s Italian Escape”

Or, in Italian: Spigola in Padella con Cous Cous Alle Erbe

CBAMSeaBassMaureen: Fish Friday!

Tim: I understand that you were the one who picked sea bass, Nicholas.

Nicholas (10): I did! I thought it sounded nice, since I like sea bass and we always like couscous.

Andrew (14): That’s true, we do.

Maureen: What do you think?

Nicholas: I like it, but I don’t like the olives.

Andrew: I like it, but I don’t like the tomatoes.

Tim: I like it all.

Maureen: Me too. Sea bass is always a winner.

Tim: How much did it cost though?

Maureen:Yes, sea bass is a bit on the pricey side, as it cost almost £30 for two fish that produce four large fillets. But I think it’s worth it.

TIm: Yes, it’s good, but is it really five times better than the trout we had a few weeks ago? That was delicious, and such good value.

Maureen: That’s a fair point, the trout tasted just as good and was much, much cheaper to buy. The good thing is that we’ve tried all different sorts of fish with our Fish Friday experiment.

Tim: FFFTW! Fish Friday For The Win!

“Crispy Fillet of Sea Bass with Herby Couscous” from “Gino’s Italian Escape”

“Lamb fillet or rump with spicy couscous” from Easy

Kirstin (while Tom slices it up): Is it rare inside?

Tom: Er, no. Although I have to say I’ve never been a fan of raw lamb.

Kirstin: Damn! I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be rare inside. He said to colour the meat at a medium heat. I had a feeling that wasn’t going to work. So when it didn’t I had to increase the heat to brown it properly which of course meant more cooking for the inside. And that was before I had to stick it in the oven.

Tom: The outside is done beautifully though.

Kirstin: So I need to cross out that crucial word in the book and change it so that I sear the meat rather than brown it next time at  a  higher heat for a shorter period of time.

Tom: Will there be a next time?

Kirstin: Actually, yes because the couscous was lovely. And thank you Drings for the lovely lamb. And the cheeses from the cheeseboard. Good choices, all. Yum and thank you!

Tom: You know me, I love couscous and lamb.

Kirstin: And it all went well together. I have to admit I left out the raisins and sultanas. because you all know my longstanding feelings on the matter. I don’t think we missed anything, do you Tom?

Tom: No.

Kirstin: To be fair, I needed a recipe tonight which would be quick and easy after a long day at work. But also one that would impress. This almost fitted the bill and I would definitely use it again, with that slight adjustment. So thus far, a great book that just needs a few notes added to each recipe….

“Lamb fillet or rump with spicy couscous” from Easy