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Ultimate winter couscous

Main Winter
Serves 4
Featured in
Plenty cookbook

Forget couscous salad and a similarly bland fare at the supermarket; this is the real thing - warmingly spicy and bursting with sweet and astringent flavours. The ingredients list may seem long, but there is actually little effort involved here. Serve it warm to four very hungry people.


2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
8 shallots, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil 
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp hot paprika
¼ tsp chilli flakes 
300g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks 
75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
200g chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked)
350ml chickpea cooking liquid and/or water
170g couscous or maftoul 
large pinch of saffron threads 
260ml boiling vegetable stock
20g butter, broken into pieces
25g harissa paste
25g preserved lemon skin, finely chopped
30g coriander leaves


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5. Place the carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large ovenproof dish. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of the oil, ¾ teaspoon salt and all the other spices and mix well. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the pumpkin, stir and return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 35 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite. Now add the dried apricots and the chickpeas with their cooking liquid and/or water. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until hot.
  3. About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the saffron and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for about 10 minutes. Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again and leave somewhere warm.
  4. To serve, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the centre of the couscous. Finish with plenty of coriander leaves.