Caponata with pearl couscous and almonds has found is way into the kitchen via October Challenge and trying new things that could loosely fall into the category of ‘good for you’. We have been making a lot of salads, which is nothing unusual, but we are trying a range of new ones to keep it interesting.
My new favourite cookbook, which I mentioned in Reading…September, has provided so much inspiration in the cooking department, that it’s become hard to choose what to try next. Hetty McKinnon’s ‘Neighbourhood‘ is a treat and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Very few books require you to rush out and buy them, but this is one. Every page receives the same comment: I can’t wait to try that!
Salads are generally about throwing ingredients into a bowl, making a dressing, and mixing it all together. What’s so different here is that the ‘dressing’ is a component in itself. It means it takes longer than a regular salad to make, but the effort is well worth it as the depth of flavour is amazing. These are salads as main courses, not ones that are merely side dishes to the centre piece of the meal. Because of this, the quantities are enormous. When you make a salad from this book the serving sizes are huge. But that’s a win win: lots for lunch the next day.
The salad requires 1 tablespoon of harissa paste. If you have a little extra time, make your own. The only time consuming thing is roasting the capsicum in the oven. Once that’s done, the rest is easy. If you do opt for a store bought version, make sure it’s a good one. I recently bought a tube from the supermarket, which I had intended to use in this salad. Luckily I tasted it before adding…it went straight in the bin. With a red capsicum sitting in the fridge, disaster was averted and the harissa was amazing.
I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. And if you want to buy a new cookbook, make it Neighbourhood. Enjoy!
- 3 small eggplants (≈800g)
- 3 - 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 - 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 2 red capsicums, deseeded and cut into 2cm pieces
- 3 celery stalks, trimmed and finely diced
- 2 onions, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon harissa paste (recipe at end)
- 400 g diced tomatoes (1 can)
- 2 - 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons, salted capers, rinsed
- ½ cup pitted green olives
- 2 - 3 teaspoons caster sugar
- juice of ½ lemon
- 500 g pearl couscous
- ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
- salt and pepper
- 1 large red capsicum, halved and deseeded
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 dried chipotle chillies, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes and drained (I used:1 chipotle chilli in adobo sauce as that's was all I had)
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground caraway
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Cut the eggplant into 2cm cubes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of each of the olive and sunflower oils in a large casserole dish. Add the eggplant and fry for 3-4 minutes over a medium heat, turning often, until golden. (You may have to do this in batches.) Remove the eggplant from the pan and place in a colander. Sprinkle with some salt.
- Add the capsicum and celery to the casserole dish, with extra oil if needed, and fry for 3 minutes until slightly softened. Season with a pinch of salt, then transfer to the colander with the eggplant.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the casserole dish and add the onions. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the harissa paste and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened.
- Return the eggplant, celery and capsicum to the pan and add the tomatoes, red wine vinegar, capers and olives. Stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper.
- If the mixture is a bit dry, add a few tablespoons of water, a little at a time.
- Cover and cook for 20 minutes over a low - medium heat, or until the vegetables are soft. When cooked, squeeze in some lemon juice and taste. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if required.
- Cook the couscous according to the packet instructions.
- Place the couscous in a large mixing bowl. Spoon the caponata over the couscous and fold together so that the vegetables and sauce coat the couscous. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle over the parsley and almonds.
- Place the capsicum cut-side down on a large baking tray, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and roast in the oven (preheated to 200 degrees celsius) for 20-25 minutes, until the skin is charred slightly and the flesh is tender.
- Set aside to cool slightly, then peel away the skin.
- Remove the seeds and stem from the soaked chipotle chillies. Place the capsicum, chipotles, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, salt, spices, remaining olive oil and 2 tablespoons of water in the bowl of a food processor and blitz together until it forms a smooth, thick paste. Add a little more water is it is too thick. (Makes ≈ 1 cup)