Thursday, March 31, 2011

Giant 'Couscous' Salad

There has been some talk of frogspawn round my blog recently. I put it down to being an indicator that spring is here, reason for a heartfelt *yay!* all round. By extension I think frogspawn can only be a good thing, though others have worries. For example -

Why is my frogspawn a milky colour?

It's most probable that cold weather has caused this effect, and the frogspawn will probably not develop into tadpoles. Other hatched tadpoles will eat the jelly though, so nothing is wasted!

Will my goldfish eat my frogspawn and tadpoles?

In a word - Yes! Goldfish are carnivorous and will also eat newts eggs, dragonfly larvae and anything else that moves! A contirbutor to the Beautiful Britain site shares - Several years ago I put all the spawn in a tank and it all hatched.... when I thought they were large enough I put them in the pond and the fish ate the lot!'

Yet people warm to goldfish in a way they don't to frogspawn.

It is estimated that the average female frog can lay up t0 4,000 eggs at one go although many of these eggs will not survive to turn into frogs. After a period of a few weeks the baby frogs (i.e. tadpoles) will come out of the frogspawn. They will then eat the frogspawn that is left over for the first few days after they emerge until they move on to other foods. Frogspawn is a good thing in so many ways.

Spawn was on my mind again this week when I made an experimental new salad - the making of salads, and particularly the trying out of new ideas is a sure sign round ours that spring is most definitely here. My mother gave me a packet of giant couscous to try, but it was the start of winter then and so it sat, ignored and neglected, until this week.

I had read of this stuff but not actually tried it, and for some reason was convinced it would be sort of toasty crunchy. Couldn't have been less so, it cooks up as little shiny soft balls, hence the reminder of spawn. Giant couscous is sometimes referred to as jumbo couscous, Israeli couscous, Mougrabieh, Fregola or Pearl couscous, depending where in the Mediterranean you are. Essentially it is little pasta balls, and it's easy to believe it was originally intended as a child's food.

Foodista finds the history fascinating: rice was scarce during Israel's ten year (1949-1959) austerity period, so the prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, commissioned the Osem food company to create a rice-substitute, as rice was a staple for many immigrants. For this reason it is often referred to as Ben-Gurion's Rice. The original Israel couscous was indeed shaped like rice, much like orzo, but over time has developed its round shape.

I fancied it with aubergine - I fancy a lot of things with aubergine - and that was my starting point. Had a bunch of parsley in the fridge that needed using and some fresh mint happily sprouting in the garden. Such things speak of salad to me, so I checked the instructions on the packet and they suggested frying a little onion first then adding the couscous and hot water. Worked a treat but all sans crunch. Rummaged and found a big bright bunch of radish and salad success was imminent.

Giant Couscous Salad

This looks a lot for one salad but it is pretty quick and easy, and keeps well in the fridge for a day or two, not collapsing the way some pasta salads do

Makes 6 generous helpings

1 medium aubergine, diced into 1cm cubes
1 tbspn salt
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tspn chilli flakes
3 tblspn olive oil
250g packet of giant/israeli couscous
2 cups boiling water
1 bay leaf
6 tbspns chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1 tbspn chopped fresh mint leaves
4 radish, thinly sliced
2 spring onions, sliced into small rings, green and white parts
2 tbspn lemon juice

Put the diced aubergine into a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for half an hour.

Fry the chopped onion in one tablespoon of the olive oil till the edges are golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and stir for a minute. Add the couscous and stir to coat with the flavoured oil. Add the boiling water - but be careful it may well spit.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the bay leaf, cover, and cook for about eight minutes. The couscous should have absorbed all the liquid and be al dente to the bite. Tip into a large salad bowl, disccarding the bay leaf.

Lightly rinse the aubergine. Heat the remaining oil and fry the aubergine for a few minutes, till it is soft and tinged with colour. Add to the couscous, loosening the whole lot with a fork. Allow to cool.

Add the herbs, radish and spring onion and mix well. Add some of the lemon juice, taste and add more if it needs it. Add seasoning.

It was great as an accompaniment to quiche and simply gorgeous with grilled lamb chops next day, the small amount of mint adding a lovely freshness to the finished salad without overwhelming it.


At Anna's kitchen table said...

LOL, you've just put me right off it!

bron said...

Oh dear! ;-(