Autumn is here and I couldn’t be happier with the prospect of all the warm-spiced sweet and savoury foods to be enjoyed in the next couple of months. Roasted squash and pumpkins, freshly picked chestnuts and seasonal baking, I’m ready to go!
This week I put my oven to work and welcomed the season with a warming couscous dish that combines spicy, sweet and savoury all in one bowl. I’m talking stock-infused couscous, mixed with orange zest and raisins and topped with maple-glazed, roasted squash, caramelized red onions and spicy, crisp roasted chickpeas. It’s comfort food at its best and wholesome and nutritious at the same time. After testing it on my family, my youngest made me promise I’d make her this again and again, which meant something, because she added: “I don’t like couscous, I don’t like squash and I don’t like chickpeas – but I LOVE this!”
As you can tell from my recipes, I do like chickpeas and I use them whenever I can, but up till now I’d only used them in their soft, floury state. I´ve been missing out! Roasting them completely transforms these little legumes and you can flavour them to your liking using spices and fresh herbs. For this dish I coated the chickpeas in ras el hanout-spiced oil, which gives them a rich, warm flavour. The subsequent roasting process crisps them up until they resemble crunchy, spicy nuts. This makes them a perfect topping for any salad or warm dish, but also a healthy snack in their own right and a lovely nibble with drinks, as I successfully tested during our latest birthday party. So if you ever want to prepare these crunchy chickpeas on their own, I posted the separate recipe here – for your and my personal convenience.
The couscous and roasted veg keep well in the fridge and make a lovely packed lunch; just be sure to keep the chickpeas separate to prevent them turning moist and starchy.
Enjoy your seasonal cooking!
Couscous with maple-roasted squash and crunchy chickpeas – serves 4
- 1 butternut squash, unpeeled, halved, deseeded and cut into 2×2 cm cubes
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 3½ tbsp. olive oil
- 1 400 g can chickpeas (drained weight 265 g)
- 1½ tsp. ras el hanout
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3-4 small red onions (total weight 350 g), peeled and cut into 4-6 wedges each
- 200 g couscous
- 250 ml hot vegetable stock
- 75 g yellow raisins
- zest of 1 orange
- small bunch of curly parsley, chopped
- falafel, for serving (optionally)
Heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7.
Mix the squash cubes with the maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Divide the squash cubes and the onion wedges in a single layer over a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Rinse the chickpeas under cold running water, drain and pat dry with a piece of kitchen paper. Mix the ras el hanout with 1½ tablespoon of the oil, salt and pepper and stir to a paste. Toss the chickpeas with the spiced oil and spread them onto a second baking sheet.
Put the first sheet in the oven and roast the pumpkin cubes for 30-35 minutes, until tender and caramelized at the edges. After 10 minutes, add the second baking sheet and roast the chickpeas for 15-20 minutes until crisp.
In a bowl, mix the couscous with the hot stock, the last tablespoon of oil, the raisins and the orange zest. Cover with clingfilm and set aside for a few minutes for the couscous to soften.
Before serving, fluff up the couscous with a fork, adding a little more oil if necessary. Divide the couscous over four bowls and top with the roasted squash, onion wedges and chickpeas. Serve sprinkled with parsley, along with some fried falafel if you fancy.