Couscous and Mograbiah with Oven-dried Tomatoes
Mograbiah is a large variety of couscous. It’s often sold outside of the Arab world as ‘giant couscous’ or ‘pearl couscous’. It’s fairly widely available but if you’re looking for a substitute then fregola – the Sardinian equivalent – also works well. You can also make do with using just regular couscous: the dish won’t be as texturally interesting but it will still taste great. If you are just using regular couscous then you’ll need to up the quantity to 500 grams and double the amount of stock and oil added.
Make a batch of the oven-dried tomatoes, when you have time, to keep at the ready for future dishes. They keep well, covered with a thin layer of oil, and do wonders for elevating the simplest of dishes: the cauliflower and cumin fritters (see page 67 of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook), for example, or just some plain scrambled eggs. If you’re in the mood for batch cooking, a jar of caramelised onion (see page 189 of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook) is also very handy to have in the fridge. Again, it will keep well (for at least 5 days) and makes a great addition to egg dishes or spooned on top of bruschetta or pasta: anything, really!
EXTRACTED FROM OTTOLENGHI: THE COOKBOOK BY YOTAM OTTOLENGHI AND SAMI TAMIMI (EBURY PRESS, £27) PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD LEAROYD
|16||large, ripe plum tomatoes, halved lengthways|
|2 tbsp||muscovado sugar|
|2 tbsp||balsamic vinegar|
|2||onions, thinly sliced|
|400ml||chicken or vegetable stock|
|a pinch||of saffron strands|
|5g||picked tarragon leaves|
|1 tbsp||nigella seeds|
|flaky sea salt and black pepper|
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/Gas Mark 3. Arrange the tomato halves on a baking tray, skin-side down, and sprinkle with the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, plus the balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 2 hours or until the tomatoes have lost most of their moisture.
Meanwhile, put the onions in a large pan with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté over a high heat for 10–12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are a dark golden colour.
Throw the mograbiah into a large pan of boiling salted water (as for cooking pasta). Simmer for 15 minutes, until it is soft but still retains a bite; some varieties might take less time, so check the instructions on the packet. Drain well and rinse under cold water.
In a separate pot, bring the stock to the boil with the saffron and a little salt. Place the couscous in a large bowl and add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the boiling stock. Cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.
Once ready, mix the couscous with a fork or a whisk to get rid of any lumps and to fluff it up. Add the cooked mograbiah, the tomatoes and their juices, the onions and their oil, plus the tarragon and half the nigella seeds. Taste and adjust the seasoning and oil. It is likely that it will need a fair amount of salt. Allow the dish to come to room temperature. To serve, arrange it gently on a serving plate, place the labneh on top (in balls or spoonfuls), drizzle with the remaining oil and finish with the rest of the nigella seeds.