The Great Big Vegetable Couscous
The classic great big simmered cauliflower and chickpea stew rich with North African spices that just has be served alongside fluffy couscous. It’s a warm, hearty meal that makes amazing leftovers. A touch of chickpea flour at the end help creates mild, slightly creamy broth that bathes the veggies in a golden glow.
If you have a big clay pot or very large tangine this is the place to use it, if not a heavy enameled cast iron or stainless steel pot is your friend in preparing this dish.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion, about 1/2 pound of onions
1 large leek, the ends trimmed and sliced into 1 inch thick rings
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 small head cauliflower, about 1 pound
2 cups diced red ripe tomatoes or one 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups chickpeas, if using canned rinse well and drain
1 large carrot, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch chunks
2 teaspoons ground sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or harrisa blend
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 three inch cinnamon stick
2 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt if using water, 1/2 teaspoon if using vegetable broth
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
1. In a large pot over medium high heat fry onions in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, leek, and carrot and fry another 15 minutes until leeks are softened. Remove leaves and core from the bottom of the cauliflower, slice in half and cut into large 2-3 bite chunks, at least 2 inches wide. Add to the pot along with all of the remaining ingredients except for the chickpea flour, stir everything well to incorporate the spices into the broth and bring the broth to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Pour 3 tablespoons chickpea flour mixed into a small bowl. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid from the pot and whisk it into flour to form a thick sauce. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sauce back into the pot and gently stir to dissolve the sauce into the broth, taking care not to mash up the cauliflower too much. Leave the pot uncovered and simmer another 10 minutes. Turn off heat, cover the pot once more and let stand for at least 15 minutes or more before serving to allow the flavors to blend and the stew to cool down slightly.
To serve, spread freshly prepared couscous onto a serving dish or individual dishes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the veggies on top of the couscous, then pour the sauce over the veggies and couscous and serve immediately.
A few simple variations to this couscous include:
-Adding 2 to 3 cups chunks of peeled winter squash. Make the chunks at least 1 inch wide to prevent them from falling apart during the simmer.
-Stir in 1 tablespoon of finely chopped preserved lemon
-Use 1/4 teaspoon of saffron threads in place of the turmeric
-Replace leeks with 1/2 pound of trimmed, small okra pods or green beans
-Serve on top of Basic Spiced Millet instead of couscous