I have no problem planning trips, photo shoots and dinner parties but I suck at meal planning. I don’t know why. I find it ten times easier to cook with 5 ingredients than to plan a meal in advance. Most of the time I start cooking without knowing what I am going to make. My father cooks like that. Not my mother, she likes to know what she is going to cook so she can prepare and shop accordingly. I do the opposite. I buy in the farmers market whatever catches my eye and then one or a couple hours before the meal I start to improvise dishes. It doesn’t matter if I am cooking for 4 or 20 people.
I improvised this brothless couscous one sunny Saturday for lunch in our backyard with vegetarian friends from New York. I was thinking of making a traditional couscous with broth and everything but I decided to keep it light and minimize the number of dirty plates. So I roasted the vegetables instead and served them over the couscous, with the toasted almonds and harissa on the side. Thanks to the phone camera – I started to film the process for social media – I can share with you my improvisations.
Roasted Vegetables with Toasted Almond & Barberries
- ½ cup avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds - crushed
- 1 small cauliflower - leaves removed
- 2 medium red or white onions - peeled and roughly diced
- 3 cups diced pumpkin
- Handful Cilantro - chopped
- Handful barberries
- Handful toasted almonds
- Basmati rice
- 2 cups basmati Rice
- 4 pods cardamoms - cracked
- 2 ½ cups water
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Mix the avocado oil with spices. Put the cauliflower in the center of a large baking tray and put the pumpkin and onion around it. Brush the cauliflower with the oil mix and pour the rest over the pumpkin and onion. Toss with your hands to coat them in the oil. Bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the basmati rice. Wash the rice carefully until the water is clear. Put it in a medium saucepan, add the water, cardamom pods and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to the lowest heat and cover (the rice comes out better when you wrap and tie a cloth around the lid or cover the pot with a paper towel before you put the lid on. The idea is to keep the steam in the pot ). Cook for 12 minutes and turn off the heat – DO NOT OPEN the pan while the rice is cooking and 5 minutes after you remove from the heat.
- To toast the almonds put them on a baking tray in the oven at 350°F for 5 minutes.
- To soften the barberries and get the flavor out of them, toast them in a skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes.
- Fluff the rice with a fork. Put 2-3 cups on a large serving plate or a bowl. Put the pumpkin and onion over. Break the cauliflower into florets or chop it roughly and put it over the pumpkin, Sprinkle the barberries, almonds and cilantro and serve with lemony tahini and harissa or schoog on the side.