Super sneaky salads: My totally nuts couscous.
I have a passion for couscous. For me it is just the perfect snack, as it makes for a smart salad and a superb side dish. I love it’s lightness and it’s fine grainy structure, it’s softness and the subtle nutty notes. Also it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes of work to make (I to can’t quite consider kettle-boiling a bowl of water to be cooking) and tastes quite good as it is, with just a small knob of butter added – really quite convenient if you don’t have the time or can’t be bothered with actually cooking something. So if you have no intention or time to cook or if you just want to eat something heartwarmingly yummy, my totally nuts couscous is just what you need.
These are the last days before my last upcoming exam. This is the last period of rest I will get for some time, so I thought I might just as well treat me to something nice. Something refreshing and light. My love for couscous is quite young. I come from a small town in the middle of nowhere (actually the upper north corner of Germany – but that is sort of the same thing). And while my childhood was rich with cows and sheep, with green pastures and salty breezes from the north-sea, it was not quite as rich in foreign culture or food. Not at all. There was, and still is, the occasional Greek restaurant or Chinese take-out and a charming Italian place, but as far as supermarkets go, my hometown is a desert for foreign food. Things have improved quite a bit in this department, but the change came too late for me. The first time I got to try couscous was during my community service time in the UK. A tiny blond Viennese friend introduced me to this great grain. She did hers with quite an acid punch to it and onions as far as I remember.
This salad is going back to the use of quite some acidity. Now, granted, it doesn’t have quite as much of a punch to it, to not overpower the buttery nuttiness of the couscous. I use lime for the acid, as it is less fruity than lemon and all the more vibrant. I like to add both parsley and coriander to the salad, to stress the green earthiness of the lime. The real magic, however, lies in the coarsely chopped pine-nuts that give that not only stress the nuttiness of the couscous but also add some crunch and texture to the rather soft couscous. I personally prefer having this just as it is, as a main dish. But it also makes for a nice side dish for fish and roasted chicken. If you wanted to make this full-on vegan, omit the butter and substitute about two tablespoons of very good olive oil (don’t bother using a cheap oil, it will only add bitterness and a bit of an irritating touch to it – rather spend a few bucks more and boy a small bottle of high-quality oil).
My totally nuts couscous
Couscous Salted pistachios Salt Chilli, dried flakes Parsley Coriander Butter Lime
- Add the couscous (About one cup for one person) to a bowl and cover with kettle-boiled water (Use about 1 + 1/4 to 1 + 1/3 of the couscous amount in water)
- Add about a teaspoon of salt to the bowl and stir gently but thoroughly for a few seconds. The idea is to allow every little grain to form an outer shell that will prevent the single grains from sticking to each other. To further aid this, you could already add your butter (about a tablespoon per cup) before the stirring and stir a bit to work it in.
- Cover with cling-foil and leave to rest for about 10 minutes.
- Coarsely chop a few sprigs of coriander and parsley. Take as much as you like. Try not to view parsley and coriander as spices but rather as main-ingredients of the salad – much like salad-leaves.
- Coarsely chop a handful or two of pistachios.
- Add the zest and juice of one lime to a bowl and add another teaspoon of salt as well as some dried chilli-flakes.
- Use a fork to stir the couscous (a fork will fluff things up a bit) and add both the chopped herbs and the nuts.
How to turn things from subtle to virbrant
This salad is rather subtle and comforting as it is. But to add quite a bit more punch to it, use the juice of one and a half to two limes plus zest and a small piece of fresh chilli finely chopped to the couscous. It might be necessary to add a pinch of sugar to the dressing, in order to balance out the acidity.