We had a fantastic day yesterday – we did some grocery shopping, picked up two fantastic locally-made beef and vegetable pies on special from the grocer (which tasted *just* like the ones we make at home – we were so impressed!), did some weeding in the vege patch, and planted some tomato and capsicum seedlings… the warm spring sunshine thawing us out from the chilly winter days we’ve been having up here. For a moment there the house actually seemed warm!
Right now, however, the weather has turned, and it’s another cold, crappy afternoon on a cold, crappy day. And, a depressing combination of stress, a bad night’s sleep and perpetual poverty isn’t helping to alleviate the miserable mood I’m in.
Solution? Procrastination via foodie blogs.
In my searching today I managed to find the blog Blue Kitchen and, I have to say, I’m really impressed. The food looks do-able, and the ingredients look like something we might on occasion actually have in our own pantry and fridge. When I saw their ‘fridge raid‘ post I thought it might be just the kind of lunch that would a) brighten my spirits, b) warm up the house, and c) produce enough leftovers for the other half of SW’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch.
When I use couscous I find that I always want to use the following ingredients in some way: meat (either lamb, mutton or chicken), cumin seeds, salt and pepper, and sour cream. Sauteed together in a pan, this combination is my idea of tastebud bliss. I’m not entirely sure why, and I’m not suggesting it would suit everyone’s palate, but personally.. I can’t get enough of it. It’s also very good served on flat breads with salad in the warmer months.
Blue Kitchen’s recipe incorporated the meat, seasoning and cumin parts of my flavour equation, so when I figured out that I had all of the ingredients I thought ‘why not?’.
Well, almost all of the ingredients, anyway… I didn’t have any red peppers, so I instead used a green pepper and some red Ajvar paste. I didn’t have pork, so I used boneless chicken thighs. And, to bulk it up a little, I added about one and a half cups of cooked couscous rather than a third of a cup. I also topped it with my signature large dollop of sour cream for extra yum-factor.
I think it turned out pretty well. I found the extra quantity of couscous did tend to absorb the pan juices and left it a touch on the dry side, but my sour cream addiction helped to fix this, adding the moisture I needed. The cumin was delicious, as was the juicy zucchini and chicken pieces. The chickpeas gave it a nice, wholesome feel.
Overall, an enjoyable and very cheap pantry and fridge meal to add some spice to a cold and bleak afternoon.
My version of the recipe follows .. Serves 4-6
3-4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large green capsicum, cut into small to medium -sized pieces
1 large onion, diced
1/2 large zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, roughly diced
2 tablespoons Ajvar Hot (Podravka brand) (I’m sure you could use alternate brands of Ajvar, though I haven’t personally tried any others.. so perhaps assess their heat first and alter this quantity as necessary)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cups cooked couscous (see packet instructions)
1-2 teaspoons cumin seeds
grinding of black pepper
salt to taste
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 can chickpeas, well drained
a few sprigs of parsley
- Put pan on stove, turn heat to medium high.
- Put in oil, cumin seeds, onions and capsicum. Fry for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until onions and capsicum are quite soft and somewhat browned.
- Add garlic and chicken and fry until chicken starts to gain a little colour.
At this point, add 1 tablespoon sour cream for some moisture and flavour.
- Add Ajvar and zucchini and stir in well. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until zucchini reaches the ‘bursts under your teeth when you bite into it’ stage.
- Scatter chickpeas over the top. Add a few grindings of pepper and salt to taste, and stir in well.
- When you’re happy with the flavours, add the couscous. Stir in well and then take off the heat.
To serve, garnish with a generous dollop of sour cream and a sprig of parsley.
And a pear for dessert! 🙂