Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Autumnal stirrings...

Autumn is absolutely my favourite season.

I love having to wrap up in big cosy jumpers, scarves and hats, plus I get to wear my favourite boots! I definitely feel more comfortable all wrapped up than in skimpy shorts!

Autumn food is so satisfying; all those pies, soups and stews that warm you up on a crisp, chilly day. I'm looking forward to seeing what veg we get from Local Greens as the weather turns colder. I think it will be more of a challenge than simply relying on salads! But that's why I enjoy cooking so much!

So far we've had a few bits that signal the turning of the leaves; beetroot, turnips (more on those another time) and - the star of the show in this post - red kuri squash. This wonderful little squash is similar to a pumpkin or a butternut squash but smaller and slightly sweeter-delicious! I love anything involving squash, there's something very comforting and satisfying about it.

I cooked this guy with a bit of a Moroccan twist. I cook quite a lot of Moroccan inspired dishes, I just think that the combination of different spices, heat and a bit of sweetness is really delicious. Last Christmas my brother treated me to a wonderful recipe book 'The Middle Eastern Vegetarian' by Sally Butcher (whose deli 'Persepolis' is just round the corner of me in Peckham- I urge any London based foodies to check it out!) which has inspired me to cook some more adventurous Middle Eastern food. Cooking this type of food may seem slightly daunting at first but once you've built up a decent spice collection and know what combinations work, you'll soon be a pro!

This recipe is my creation however, but inspired by a few Moroccan/Middle Eastern recipes and meals I've tried. If you can't get hold of red kuri squash, butternut or any other similar squash will work just as well.

Moroccan roast red kuri squash with spiced chickpeas and herby couscous
Serves 2

1 red kuri squash, seeds removed and cut into wedges
1 teaspoon of harissa paste (I use La Phare du Cap Bon paste, but there are plenty of other brands available, or have go at making yourself!)
2 tablespoons of olive oil

half a red onion, diced
1clove of garlic, minced
glug of olive oil
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
pinch of chill flakes OR half a chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
large bunch of spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 tablespoons of half-fat creme fraiche OR Greek yoghurt

150g pearl couscous (this has larger grains than normal couscous, which I prefer, but the normal one will work just as well)
good glug of olive oil
juice of half a lemon
handful of coriander, chopped

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 5. Place the squash in a large roasting tray. Mix the oil and harissa paste and toss the squash wedges with the mixture so they are fully coated. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until soft and starting to caramelise.

Prepare the couscous by adding to a large pan of boiling water (I also added a bit of stock powder) and cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain and drizzle with olive oil. Stir in the lemon juice and coriander.

Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onion, garlic and chilli and cook until soft. Add the tomato puree and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas and spinach, and stir, until spinach is completely wilted. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly, then mix in the yoghurt or creme fraiche.

Serve the wedges of squash topped with chickpeas and a side of couscous, with a further sprinkling of coriander if desired.

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