Ultimate winter couscous

“This recipe, from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book “Plenty” ticks so many boxes – it includes much of what is in the veg boxes; it is real comfort food; and, despite appearances, is easy to make. The quantities can be halved, doubled or whatever to feed whoever is around. It is also versatile, and lends itself to amendment according to whatever herbs and spices are at hand, without suffering.”, Ruth


  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 8 shallots, peeled
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp hot paprika
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • 300g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 200g chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked)
  • 350ml chickpea cooking liquid and/or water
  • 170g couscous or maftoul
  • large pinch of saffron threads
  • 260ml boiling vegetable stock
  • 20g butter, broken into pieces
  • 25g harissa paste
  • 25g preserved lemon skin, finely chopped
  • 30g coriander leaves
  • salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Place the carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large ovenproof dish. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of the oil, ¾ teaspoon salt and all the other spices and mix well. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the pumpkin, stir and return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 35 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite.
  4. Now add the dried apricots and the chickpeas with their cooking liquid and/or water. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until hot.
  5. About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the saffron and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for about 10 minutes.
  6. Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again and leave somewhere warm.
  7. To serve, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the centre of the couscous. Finish with plenty of coriander leaves.

Bon appetit!