May 14, 2012

Moroccan Vegetable Ragout with Mushrooms and Couscous

Not only is this Maghreb-inspired dish nourishing and scrumptious, but it also bursts with goodness and antioxidants from the great array of vegetables, spices and herbs used. The ragout is yet to let me down when I want to impress my friends and family - they always go back for seconds and are surprised when I tell them how simple it is to put together. Oh the magic of spices!

If desired, add an onion and a clove of garlic, both chopped, and sweat them with the olive oil for a few minutes before adding the spices. I just omitted them because my grandma can't eat onions or garlic - the ragout turned out just as flavoursome and moreish.

Serves 4-6:
- 2 tbs olive oil
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you want a spicier kick)
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 400g tin whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 4-5 cups vegetable stock
- 1 stick celery
- 1 large carrot
- 1 large zucchini
- 200g button mushrooms
- 420g tin chickpeas
- ¾ cup coriander and parsley leaves, chopped

For the couscous (serves 6):
- 500ml water
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 500g packet couscous
- 75g butter

To make the couscous, bring the water to the boil with the salt in a non-stick saucepan. Turn off the heat, then quickly pour in the couscous.

Cover with a lid and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add the butter and carefully combine it into the couscous. Season with more salt if necessary. If you find that your couscous has clumps, use a fork to gently break and fluff it up. Cover with the lid and set aside.

To prepare your vegetables, quarter the zucchini and carrots lengthways and cut into 4cm long pieces. Cut the celery into a similar shape. Halve the mushrooms and set aside.

Drain the chickpeas 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. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a heavy-based pot, add the cayenne pepper and spices and cook gently on a low heat for 2 minutes until fragrant. Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the celery and carrot and cook for 5 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes.

Add the sugar and 4 cups of stock, ensuring that the stock comfortably covers the vegetables. If it doesn't, pour in more stock until everything is completely covered. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes. Then add in the zucchini and mushrooms and gently simmer, with the lid on, for 20 minutes.

Finally, add the chickpeas and cook for a further 5 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Taste the ragout for seasoning. 

To serve, spoon the couscous into shallow bowls. Ladle the vegetable ragout over the couscous and sprinkle with the coriander and parsley.

Moroccan Vegetable Ragout with Mushrooms


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