Busy Bites: My lentil and pumpkin couscous-mash.
There is something about spices like cumin and cardamom, sweet paprika and pepper, that warm my heart. A warmth and depth, that seems so suitable for dark and cold days like this. Christmas is a busy time, between lectures and Christmas parties, people need to be met, presents to be bought. In all this rushing around a plate of food that almost tells you to sit back and relax, to take some time to actually enjoy the season, seems like a welcome break. My lentil and pumpkin couscous mash is one of these dishes. Based on a thick, rich and aromatic lentil and pumpkin soup, this is comfort food in all its glory. Done in a few minutes, and served with a big helping of yoghurt sauce, this is food that feeds mind and body. Take a break, you deserve it.
The days turn decidedly darker and colder. And now, more than ever, comfort food is a regular in my kitchen. Between busy uni-days, Christmas parties and meeting a few friends in between, I often find only little time for a good bite. Christmas, it seems, and the weeks preceding it, are the most hectic and busy of all year. I am about to leave Groningen for the Christmas break and, as every year, I meet with about as many people within a few weeks, as I usually do all year round.
Coming home, often relatively late, all I want is a good bite to fight off the cold. Something that says “welcome home” and “take a rest” and is made without much effort. My couscous-mash says all of these things. While the soup that is necessary for making it, simmers happily on my stove, I get to reply to e-mails, or just watch silly Christmas movies. With a bit of pre-planning this glorious dish is done by the time you hung your coat and washed your hands.
The trick lies in pre-paring the soup. Usually couscous is steamed over a bit of simmering water, or if you are less fancy (like me) soaked in kettle boiled water. This couscous, however, is cooked in a gloriously orange soup, made from lentils, pumpkin and carrots. Served with a big dollop of yoghurt and mixed with a good serving of coriander, this decidedly oriental dish is delicious in all its inauthenticness. Creamy, with a slightly coarse texture, the warmth of cumin, the freshness of coriander and cardamom, the richness of pumpkin and the sweetness of carrots, there is little that makes my heart and stomach as content.
My lentil and pumpkin couscous mash
Red lentils Carrots Pumpkin Garlic Shallot Water Olive oil Cardamom Cumin Sweet paprika powder Salt Greek Yoghurt Coriander
For a portion that feeds about two people, I use one large tea-cup for measuring. Each one part of the vegetables and lentils (= one cup) and 5 of water, plus one cup of couscous, will do the trick.
Add a splosh of olive oil to a pot. Add the red lentils and a clove of chopped garlic. Stir, allow to warm, but not to brown. Add the shallot, carrot and pumpkin and the water. Add salt. Allow to cook for about 15 to 20 minutes and liquidize. Add cardamom. Adjust seasoning. Add the couscous, take off the heat and allow to thicken for about 5 to ten minutes.
In the meantime, season the greek yoghurt with pepper, salt, sweet paprika powder and cumin. Add salt. Chop the coriander finely. And mix with the couscous-mash. Spoon over lots and lots of yoghurt sauce and enjoy warm.