The Ultimate Winter Couscous

Adapted very slightly from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

A few introductory side notes: for the stock, I used Better Than Bouillon, and for dried apricots, I like Trader Joe’s “California Slab Apricots.” For chickpeas, I used canned. For harissa, I stole some from the Delancey walk-in, wa ha haaaa, but you can make your own, or you can buy it. For preserved lemons, we make tons of them at Delancey – preserved Meyer lemons, actually! The best – and use them on pizzas and in starters, and if you’ve got time, hey, you can make some too. If not, they’re usually available at shops selling Mediterrean or Middle Eastern ingredients, and I’ll bet Whole Foods has them, too. And really, I know: this ingredients list is long – long enough that, in my experience, it can be easy to get lost and forget to add something. I’ve tried to make it more foolproof here by dividing it up according to what is added when. Maybe it’ll help?


2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
8 shallots, peeled
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt


2 ½ cups peeled, cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (from a 10-ounce / 285-gram squash)


½ cup (about 70 grams) dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup (about 200 grams) chickpeas, canned or freshly cooked
1 ½ cups (350 ml) water or chickpea cooking liquid


1 cup (200 grams) couscous
A large pinch of saffron
1 cup (240 ml) boiling vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons (40 grams) unsalted butter, diced


1-2 tablespoons harissa
1 ounce (28 grams) preserved lemon or preserved Meyer lemon peel, finely chopped
Cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 375°F, and set a rack in the middle position. Put the carrots, parsnips, and shallots in a large ovenproof dish (a 9×13-inch is perfect). Add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, and toss to coat. Add the spices, cinnamon sticks through pepper flakes, as well as ¾ teaspoon kosher salt. Mix well. Bake for 15 minutes. Then add the pumpkin or squash, and stir to mix. Return to the oven, and continue cooking for about 35 minutes more, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite. Now, add the dried apricots, chickpeas, and water or chickpea cooking liquid. Stir to mix, then continue to bake for 10 minutes more, or until hot.

About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the saffron, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous, and immediately cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid. Set aside for 10 minutes. Then add the butter, and fluff with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again, and leave somewhere warm.

Just before serving, take the vegetables out of the oven, and stir the harissa and preserved lemon. Taste for salt.

Serve the vegetables over the couscous, with plenty of cilantro leaves on top.

Yield: 4 good-sized servings