At work the other day, I spent a little time chatting to a twinkly sort of man who at one point in the conversation paused, and then announced, ‘Joy is to be found not in the event of finishing an activity, but in the very act of doing it.’ Now, I can think of a number of situations where the opposite seems much more apt, but it made me think of the pleasure I get out of cooking. There’s something meditatively calming about the repetitive action of chopping vegetables, of losing yourself in the scents and tastes, the feeling of grains and seeds running through your hands or the warmth of steam, and yes, occasionally smoke, misting up your vision. It’s a little time every day where I can follow something through and see it taking shape right in front of me. But don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the eating just as much.
I used to live with a guy who made the best salads. Usually beginning with bulgar wheat, and then building the thing up into something beautiful with pomegranate molasses, tomato puree, sumac, citrus juice, herbs, garlic…. And probably more. I thought of his cooking a month or so ago when we ate a little plate of tabbouleh in a Turkish restaurant. So much flavour packed into a mouthful. That’s how I like my food. It inspired us to make this dish – the giant couscous, nutty and a little reminiscent of pasta, has a satisfying bite, and the flavour explosion from the fresh herbs is a real joy for the tastebuds. Definite success!
100g uncooked giant couscous
About 500ml boiling water
1 tsp. bouillon
A pinch of ground cumin
A hefty handful of parsley
A generous amount of coriander
Lots of dill
A good bit of oregano
A slightly more restrained amount of mint
About 200g cherry tomatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces
3 tbsp. capers
A handful of olives
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp. olive oil
A few pistachios
Begin by cooking the couscous according to the packet instructions (I added mine to a large pan of boiling water, along with one teaspoon of bouillon and a little ground cumin, and cooked on a rolling boil for about eight minutes.)
Whilst it’s cooking, chop the herbs to whatever texture you prefer – we sliced ours up pretty finely. When the couscous is done, drain, then tip into a large mixing bowl. Throw in the herbs and all other ingredients, except the pistachios, and mix really well. Pile onto your serving plate before tossing over the pistachios.