Cous Cous is semolina (tiny granules of durum wheat), and is a traditional staple in North African countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It is often served with a ‘stew’ or casserole where the gravy is soaked up by the cous cous. On it’s own, it doesn’t have much flavour, a bit like pasta. So you need to flavour it and then it transforms into something really quite wonderful! Here, I decided to make a layered Vegetable Bake, and served it as a side dish. It is substantial enough for you to have as a main dish also.
I used layers of mushrooms, spinach and courgette / zucchini, amongst layers of cous cous and grated cheese. It was very tasty indeed! I like this recipe because it can be whatever you want it to be! You can choose other vegetables, or flavorings, and so long as you keep to the cous cous, play around with the other veggies for what your family enjoy the most!
The cous cous layers
1 cup or 170 g Dried Cous cous
3/4 Cup or 170 ml Boiling hot vegetable broth / boullion
I onion chopped fine
1 cloves garlic, chopped /crushed
1 tomato skin off & chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves & Flat leaf Parsley – chopped
The other layers
1 Package of Raw baby spinach
1 1/2 cups or 100 g Sliced Mushrooms
1 whole zucchini / courgette, sliced thinly, lengthways
1 Cup or 100 g of grated cheese of your choice ( I used mixture of Parmesan, Mozerella and Cheddar)
1. Please be sure to keep the ratio of water to cous cous. Too much water will result in a soggy lumpy mess! Too little and the cous cous won’t fluff up.
2. You can swap any of the vegetables for others, like eggplant, or frozen spinach, beans etc. You can also omit or add more or less cheese, or swap it for a tomato pasta sauce. This really is a very flexible recipe, so choose whatever your heart desires!
Firstly, we prepare the cous cous as follows:
1. Add boiling hot water to a jug with the stock cube and dissolve it, or if using broth, bring it to a boil. Then add it to the bowl with the cous cous in. Place a lid or plastic wrap over the bowl. (covering the cous cous will allow it to absorb the water.
2. Add olive oil to a pan and cook onions and garlic. Add salt & pepper if you wish.
3. Whilst the onions etc are cooking, place the tomato in a jug with some hot water so the skin can be removed.
4. Cook the onions etc until they are translucent and everything is soft. Remove the tomato from the water and peel off the skin, and chop into cubes. Add to the pan of onions etc and combine. Remove pan from heat.
5. Remove the lid from the bowl of cous cous and using a fork, poke it around and stir it quite a lot until it fluffs up and the cous cous is not clumped together.
6. Add ALL the contents from the pan to the cous cous. Do not drain first. You need the oil and juices to flavour the cous cous. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add tabasco , fresh chopped herbs and combine.
7. Next we prepare the other vegetables.
For the zucchini / courgette, slice lengthways and place in the pan with a drop of olive oil and lightly fry until half cooked. Remove and place on kitchen paper. Do the same for the sliced mushrooms then set aside.
For the spinach, if using fresh spinach, wash well and dry.
8. Build the bake. (season with salt and pepper in between each layer if you wish!)
**** Use an oven proof dish roughly 8 x 8 inches or a little larger. You don’t need to be too precise with the size.
Start with a layer using some of the mushrooms, then a layer of cous cous, then zucchini / courgette, then cous cous, then spinach, then cous cous, then mushrooms, ending in a layer of cous cous. In between each layer, thinly sprinkle some grated cheese all over. Top with a sprinkling of cheese before the oven.
9. Place in preheated oven, 180 C or 350 F and cook until the top is browned. Should take around 20 – 30 minutes. Once ready, allow to stand for 15 minutes to make it easier for slicing, then serve!
*** You can choose any order of layers you like, however, please ensure, if using fresh spinach, it has a layer of cous cous directly under and above it. This is so the cous cous can absorb any water from the spinach during cooking, otherwise you could end up with excess water in your bake!