Photo by: Jonathan Lovekin

Ultimate winter couscous

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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

Someone complained to the Guardian about the long list of ingredients in this recipe. But I knew it was a success when a friend spotted it on the menu (with a due credit) of the Sun and Doves, a cool and arty pub in Camberwell.
Serves 4, or even more


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.
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.
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.
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.


{based on 9 reviews}

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  • Recipes Great couscous
    (05/07/2016) The roasting of the veggies really makes the difference. This couscous has so much flavour! Don't omit any spice or the preserved lemon, they add to the taste and work together nicely. This dish gives you a smile on the face on a grey winter day.
  • Recipes Apricot provides zing
    (08/06/2016) I adore this salad. So many yummy flavours and the apricot adds some unexpected zing.
  • Recipes another fantastic recipe
    (19/10/2014) I have never cooked anything from Ottolenghi that wasn't fantastic, and this is no exception. Great spice mix makes all the difference
  • Recipes This is the best couscous dish I've tasted!
    (27/04/2014) This is the best couscous dish I've tasted! The spices really enhanced the flavour of the veggies. So easy to prepare as well. Comfort food defined! Will absolutely make this again, my partner loved it too and he is a die hard meat eater. First time using Harrisa for me and I'll never look back.
  • Recipes Flavoursome and satisfying
    (03/03/2014) This is delicious and has lots of flavour - had some left over for the following evening and the flavours had developed even more- very satisfying dish. Added some preserved lemons that I had prepared one month ago..... yum !
  • Recipes One of the best couscouses
    (18/02/2014) The spices and the harrisa paste is wonderful with the couscous and the vegetables. It didn't take long to make and I really disagree to the one, who suggested that there are too many ingredients in it. They are all essential and come together beautifully.
  • Recipes Delicious and beautiful!
    (11/02/2014) I substituted quinoa for the couscous with great results. My family devoured it. The vibrant colors are a perfect pick-me-up for midwinter's dreariness. The sweetness of the apricots and addictive spice of the harissa complemented each other beautifully. I am happy to add a dish like this loaded with wonderful flavors and vegetables to my recipe box.
  • Recipes comfort food at its most wholesome!
    (26/01/2014) this is one of the best couscous recipes i've come across, all the spices make it so flavoursome and the vegetables make it into a real winter warmer. the recipe says it serves four but this is quite generous - for me it lasted for a couple of days so made a great packed lunch too!
  • Recipes Couscous at it's best
    (19/11/2013) Fabulous dish full of wonderful North African flavours. I made it to accompany the pork fillet with garlic and orange salsa and it was a meal made in heaven !!! It does take time to prepare but certainly worth the work. Great for winter evening especially if you are having friends for dinner. Highly recommend.