There’s a transition phase between summer and winter, when the weather starts to cool down but it’s not cool enough for full blown winter food. This roasted pumpkin and cauliflower with couscous hits the spot for this time of year. It’s not really a salad because its warm, and it’s not robust enough to make you want to eat it on a cold evening.
I went looking for inspiration for something new and found a version of this on taste.com. I wanted something with Persian kind of flavours – spices, fruits, nuts, but without the meat that I associate with this type of food. Ras el hanout gives the vegetables the flavour, and the pop of pomegranate seeds makes it even more special.
I’ve never been a fan of cauliflower because I associate it with cauliflower cheese that as a child, I just didn’t like. Maybe it was a visual dislike. White cauliflower, covered in a cheesy white sauce. Everything was just white on white, with no visual appeal. In fact, when I think about it, all I remember is what it looked like rather than what it tasted like. Perhaps it was delicious, and I shunned it based on looks alone. Have to say, I have tried to move past that as my fall-back position, but sometimes I become aware that it still lurks under the surface.
My dislike of cauliflower meant that my poor children grew up never having eaten it. Much like their experience with pork and every type of seafood except fish. What’s good about growing up is you eventually get to make your own choices. You might also realise that some of the things you fought hard not to eat during those childhood years, could become a favourite. Just like me and cauliflower.
The thing that changed my view was the realisation that you don’t have to boil cauliflower to cook it. Fried lightly in olive oil with sliced cloves of garlic turned it into a vegetable I didn’t know it could be. So, if you think you don’t like this particular vegetable, or any other vegetable for that matter, find a different way to cook it that sparks joy for you. And then decide.
A couple of things when making this: ras el hanout is often sold as Moroccan spice mix. Make sure you check the packet because it is often loaded with salt /sugar, which you really don’t need. If you can’t find any, then make your own. My version can be found here. Also, pomegranates can be either out of season or just too expensive. In either case, leave them out. Sure they give a great pop of flavour, but this recipe is worth trying with or without the pomegranates.
So, my wisdom from the kitchen. Embrace the fussy eaters that you may live with and know that one day, no matter how many decades down the track, they may find delight in something previously scorned. Enjoy!
- 600 grams pumpkin cut into 2cm thick wedges
- 300 grams cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1 x 400 gram tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 teaspoons ras el hanout (Moroccan spice mix)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup couscous
- ¼ cup currants
- ¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
- handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped
- ½ lemon, juiced
- ½ teaspoon sumac
- ½ pomegranate, seeds removed
- Put the sour cream, garlic, mint leaves, lemon juice and sumac in the bowl of a food processor and blitz. If you don't have a food processor, finely chop the mint leaves, and combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Spread the pumpkin, cauliflower, onion and chickpeas on the tray. Sprinkle with olive oil, ras el hanout, and salt and toss to combine making sure all the vegetables are coated with the oil and spice mix. Bake for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- While the vegetables are in the oven, make the couscous. Place the couscous in a bowl, add a splash of olive oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Add one cup of boiling water, and stir with a fork. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Stir with a fork to separate the grains.
- Add the currants, almonds and coriander leaves. Mix to combine.
- Spoon the couscous onto a large serving plate. Top with the cooked vegetables and drizzle over the sour cream dressing.
- Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and a few mint leaves.