Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Couscous Paella

Clockwise from left: green pepper, red pepper (Do you like the straight-out-of-the-fridge matte finish on it?), leek, carrots, mushrooms, garlic

I made this Couscous dish the other day based on a recipe from a German book. Two main reasons that tempted me to try it out were:
a) I like cooking and experimenting with Couscous.
b) The quantity and combination of vegetables in the recipe appealed to me.

Making it was sure fun. So was photographing the colourful vegetables. However, the Couscous turned out to be way too bland for my taste. There aren't any spices listed in the recipe and I was aware of that. However, I thought that all those vegetables would lend their taste to the Couscous and make it tasty. I also added lots of Harissa paste, which was not mentioned in the recipe. My conclusion is that this dish needs many more spices. Although the book says that this dish can be had on its own for the main course, I now think that I shouldn't have believed it. Like I didn't trust the book when it asked for 500 grams of Couscous for 4 portions. (Now, portions are usually large in Germany. I never manage to finish mine when we eat out, although I have a large appetite.) So, I reduced the quantity of the Couscous by half to 250 grams. However, I did not scale down the quantity of the vegetables, because my husband and I like to have lots of vegetables in our food. Moreover, my husband has 'problems of a certain kind', if there is not enough fibre in the food. Oops, sorry, I was not supposed to write that. I hope, he does not read this post. ;-)

What I was saying is that this Couscous preparation cannot be had on its own. Hence, I prepared something to go with it, but only the following day, when we were finishing leftovers. (Yes, 250 grams still managed to make 4 portions. I can't imagine what I would have ended up with, had I used 500 grams, as asked in the recipe.) I'll blog about that 'something' in the next few days. Sorry, don't have the time for two posts right now.

Most important is, that this 'Paella' (I don't know why the book calls it that coz I don't see much of resemblance here.) is very good, if had with something spicy. Since it is loaded with vegetables, I would like to send it over to Cate for this week's ARF/5-A-Day event.

Here's the recipe for Couscous Paella

Serves 4.


250 grams Couscous
One can of chopped tomatoes (The quantity is roughly 400 grams here in Europe.)
2 carrots
2 spring onions or one leek (I used the latter, as you can see in the picture.)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper (Using 2 green peppers should be fine too.)
250 grams white/brown mushrooms (I used white ones.)
2-3 cloves of garlic (Corresponding quantity of readymade garlic paste should be ok.)
2 tbsp olive oil
Harissa paste to taste (Please add only a little first, check, and add more, if required.)
salt to taste


1. Take the Couscous into a large container or shallow dish. Sprinkle about ¼ liter of water on it and mix it with the Couscous using your fingers so that it spreads evenly all over. Let the Couscous rest for about half an hour, after which the grains will have fluffed up nicely and will have grown about three times in quntity.

In the glass container: Couscous half-risen after about 15 minutes of mixing with water

2. In the meanwhile, cut the leek/spring onions (white as well as green part) into roundels. Peel the carrots, if you like, although it is not always necessary. Just rubbing them hard while washing them suffices often. Cut them in 5cm. long sticks.

3. De-stem and de-seed the bell peppers. Cut them in long slices. Clean the mushrooms with a soft brush. (I have come to know only recently that you are not supposed to wash them. Does anybody of you know why? Please enlighten.) Cut the mushrooms in bite-sized slices.

4. If using fresh garlic, peel it and chop it fine. Open the can of tomatoes. ( I always happen to open the can in such a way that the tin sheet stays attached to the can in at least two places. And to think that I am otherwise quite good with other tools and gadgets in the house. Does anybody of you have this problem too? Or is it that I require a new can opener?)

5. Heat the oil in a wide pan or wok. Once it is hot, add the carrot sticks. Sauté them for two seconds so that they are coated with oil, then close the pan with a lid and cook the carrots for 4-5 minutes. Add a sprinking of water to the pan, if you see the carrots sticking to the bottom.

6. Now add the sliced mushrooms, sliced bell peppers and sliced leek/spring onions. Sauté all vegetables on high heat for 5 minutes while stirring them often. The vegetables should cook, but should still be rather crunchy.

Vegetables cooking in the pan

7. Add the garlic pieces/paste, canned tomatoes, Harissa paste and salt now. Mix thoroughly. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

8. Add the softened Couscous and again mix thoroughly. Cover the pan and cook for further 10 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally while it is cooking.

Couscous Paella is ready when the vegetables are coated with cooked Coucous grains, like this.

Couscous Paella

Serve it on its own, if you don't mind it bland. I served it the first day like that, but it did not satisfy our taste buds. The following evening, I served it with a spicy preparation, and it was perfect. Watch this space for the recipe of that preparation. Bye for now!


shilpa said...

Thats a very interesting recipe. Thanks for sharing. Good that you try different kinds of food. I usually hesitate to cook anything otherthan Indian, because if I do, most of the time I have to eat it alone :(.

Nabeela said...

yes, you probably need a new can opener...:)
and about the mushrooms, some chefs say you can wash it...but only if you do so right before cooking...I guess they become soggy if washed in water...but they could have dirt on them..and we don't wanna eat that!! so i say go with the wash-before-you-cook thingy...

Neelu said...

Hey tht combo looks soo tempting.....BTW what is couscous ? What is it made of , hadent heard of it before.

Meghan said...

That looks really good -- how frustrating that it was bland! Do you suppose that a strong veggie stock used in place of the water would make much a difference in the flavour?

In regards to the mushrooms, my understanding is that it was long thought that they absorbed the water with which they were washed, thus adding more water to the dish and giving the wrong measurements if they were measured by weight. I've read a fair bit lately that discounts this and says that a quick wash is fine and that there's not enough water absorbed to make a difference unless you're soaking them. That said, I tend to just peel them quickly and cut off any nasty bits -- it seems more efficient, somehow.

Vaishali said...

Shilpa, I try to use unknown ingredients quite often. However, a decent product comes out only rarely. :)

Thanks for the info on mushrooms, Nabeela. I appreciate it.

Neelu, just visit the link by clicking on Couscous in this post and you will know all about it.

Meghan, thanks a lot for the tip regarding veggie stock. Thanks again for the detailed information about washing mushrooms. I will keep all of it in mind.

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