Friday, 14 June 2013

Salad Days - Quick Couscous Salad

One of my favourite quick and simple salads is couscous with lots of bits and bobs in it. Back in my early twenties, I lived and worked in Paris and could not get into couscous and North African food, nor did I much like garlic. The chef at the works canteen did his best to re-educate me and succeeded in persuading me that steak really didn't have to be cooked all the way through, rabbit stew was delicious and garlic was essential. I might not eat meat any more, but I like garlic!
This uses 'instant' couscous - I know it will offend some people. Doing it 'properly' is fine if you are feeding a crowd on a special occasion, but I am not rinsing, steaming, separating grains and so on just for myself. I'm not sure I would know where to find anything other than 'instant' couscous!

I use a half-cup measure to measure out couscous into a bowl and add the same volume of boiling water, or very slightly more - a full cup of water to a scant cup of couscous. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave to stand. While the couscous absorbs the water, dice various salad ingredients, whatever you have to hand, such as tomato, cucumber, apple, celery, sweet pepper and add a few nuts if you like (I like cashews). When the couscous has absorbed the water, stir in a half teaspoon of harissa (or more if you like it really fiery), separating the grains and fluffing it up a bit, then adding the salad ingredients and nuts. As you can see from the pic, this time I added almonds instead of cashews, black grapes instead of apple. I come back to this time after time, because I can just throw it together with whatever I have. It also makes a really good light packed lunch for dance workshop days.

It occurred to me as I was making this salad that my left knee was so painful, I didn't want to stand at the kitchen worktop to chop the ingredients. My head was buzzing and the stitches from the operation three days ago to remove a cyst from my scalp were pulling and burning a little. I had no appetite, even though I needed to eat to take painkillers.  Although I like salads, I'm craving chilli salmon, new potatoes and piles of broccoli.  I think my body is trying to tell me something, so I may take a break from the salads series and pick up sometime when I'm feeling better and inspired to take it up again.

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