Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Home is where the heart is meant to be: Couscous salad

The thing about working away from home and eating restaurant food is that I find I crave vegetables (yes I know I'm weird), food I can eat from a bowl on my lap, in my pyjamas. I just don't think they'd be down with that in a Harvester. Although I should say - Harvester for the win at being able to eat what you want as it suits you - sadly though, still not in your pjs.

So, it probably makes me something of a sad loser to admit that I spent a large part of Friday daydreaming about a couscous salad. Yes, I know. Something spiked with brightly coloured, fresh veggies, with lots of protein and flavour that tasted - wholesome. I know that's not a flavour, but that's what I wanted.

So Friday afternoon came and I popped up to Waitrose, as my fridge was almost completely bare - I would have added a picture here, but that would have entailed showing you the fact that it also needs a clean out with some bicarb in hot water and I'm not keen on my slatternly tendencies being on show for the whole world to see. I picked up some couscous and feta (both from their essentials range), working on the basis that I was sure I had odds and sods to use up in a fridge-bottom style...

However, the fridge wasn't completely bare - here's what I found in it:

A handful of dried up fresh mint
Two handfuls of equally dried up parsley
A tomato
Half a red romano pepper
Some spring onions that were only slightly wilted
Lazy chilli
Half a cucumber that was looking very sorry for itself
A centimetre or so of homemade salad dressing in an old jam jar
And a bottle of rose with one glass left in it!

Also in the pantry I found the end of a packet of pine nuts, and some Marigold bouillon

I boiled the kettle and measured out 1 cup of couscous into a salad bowl
I added 2 teaspoons of bouillon and 2 cups of boiling water, stirred it all in, covered with a clean, dry tea towel and left for 10 minutes
Meanwhile, I chopped up the tomato, cucumber, pepper, spring onions and feta up into a small dice
I finely chopped the mint, parsley and garlic
I toasted the pine nuts in a dry pan until lightly browned

When the couscous was cool I added all the ingredients above, a teaspoon of lazy chilli and the leftover (shaken up) vinagrette. Everything was stirred in and served in a large bowl with the rose. It was exactly what I wanted - and made loads - which meant both Mark and I had it for dinner on Friday, and lunch on Saturday and Sunday.

On Monday I did a discount run around Waitrose, picking up a packet of prawns and a packet of feta, and a bag of peashoots - I added half of each of these to the remaining cous cous and had it for dinner on Monday. As an added bonus, packed lunches on Tuesday and today were the remains of all of those and some cherry tomatoes and alfalfa/ radish sprouts as an undressed salad. Yum.

I know it's not exciting to talk about those meals we make at the end of the month to make the budget stretch further, to use up the odds and ends from a veg box or a shop, and it's not a recipe per se as you could use anything languishing in your fridge but this is real life - we can't all be knocking up Jamie's 30 minute meals or Delia's suggestions every day - sometimes we just need something that nourishes us, that is tasty and that doesn't cost the earth. I know I do.

Coming up... Mark's mum sent me back a whole load of plums from their tree, mint from the garde and crabapples she was given, so for the cost of some sugar I'll be presrving madly this week. Also a long awaited foray into a nasi goreng inspired by something I saw on the Food Channel when I was off sick before I changed jobs.

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