Ever since I started working at Moroccan restaurant, Canvas, I've grown to embrace the flavours of the Maghreb region, where there is a strong emphasis on the exotic combination of herbs and spices. One of the dishes that we serve is Couscous Royale, which basically comprises of 3 parts - a dish of couscous with ghee, a vegetable ragout and a combination of grilled meats. On many occasions, I've tried to replicate this scrumptious meal at home with my own twist, but I don't think it has come anywhere close to what the chefs produce in the restaurant! Here's what I do:
Serves 4:- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 shallot (or brown onion), finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 2½ cups vegetable stock
- 1 carrot
- 1 zucchini
- 420g tin chickpeas
- ¾ cup chopped herbs (coriander, parsley, mint)
Although it may not be traditional, you can use any seasonal vegetables you like. I like to add in button mushrooms (halved), freshly shelled peas instead of chickpeas and celery (cut into finger-like pieces). The celery goes into the pot at the same time as the carrots, and the mushrooms and peas with the zucchini. If you end up with too many vegetables, just double the amount of stock and spices and freeze any extra ragout for another day's meal.
When I don't have coriander or parsley on hand, I like to use fresh spearmint from my grandma's garden!
Prepare your vegetables - quarter the zucchini and carrots lengthways and cut into 4-5cm pieces. For the chickpeas, drain them and put in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover well. Lift up handfuls of chickpeas and rub them between your hands to loosen the skins. Run more water into the bowl, stir well and let the skins float to the top, then skim them off. Repeat until all the skins have been removed, then drain them again.
Heat olive oil in a heavy-based pot, add shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic, cayenne pepper and spices and cook gently for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar and stock, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully lift the lid and add the carrots (and celery if using). Cover again and simmer for 20 minutes. Then gently add in the zucchini and chickpeas (or freshly shelled green peas and mushrooms) and cook for another 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Taste the ragout for seasoning. Finally, stir in fresh herbs and serve immediately over couscous, rice, mashed potatoes or use as a dipping sauce for bread!
Moroccan Vegetable Couscous
This was my first attempt at a Moroccan Vegetable Ragout, served with Lamb Chops, Fennel Salad and Couscous. Every cooking experience improves with practice, trial and error, so don't be deterred if at first you don't succeed. I always make mistakes, but am glad I do, because it's the only way for me to learn how to be a better cook!