14 ounces boxed chopped tomatoes: $2.00
1 cup dried chickpeas: $0.75
2 cups squash (pro-rated): $1.50 1 medium zucchini: $0.60 2 cups whole wheat couscous: $2.00
Pantry items: Ginger, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, olive oil, cinnamon stick, onion, raisins, vegetable or chicken stock, salt, cilantro, parsley, harissa or other hot sauce.
Total cost (for 4 portions): $6.85
As I dished up this couscous, my heart sank: it looked like many other vegetable stews that had disappointed me in the past with their tasteless chunks of watery squash and air of grimly determined healthiness. I had recently been thinking of how Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian never lets me down, and I figured I was paying some kind of karmic price for being foolishly faithful.
Well, the faith lives! I don't know if it was the spice blend or the cooking method, but this dish was fragrant, deliciously various, and satisfying in every way. Although I had been too lazy to chop cilantro and parsley and did not have any harissa, in my opinion it shone even without garnishes. I didn't have it in me to make a salad, either, but some simply dressed romaine or a grated carrot salad would be nice here.
The recipe increases well. Make a double batch of the stew, put half in the freezer, and eat it later with freshly-cooked couscous. Although I cook my own chickpeas (cheaper!), canned should be fine here. Powdered stock is probably fine, too, but I used a "stock" I had made simply by simmering a couple of leftover chicken bones with a handful of parsley stems, a halved onion, and a smashed clove of garlic.
Chickpeas, Pumpkin, and Raisins with Couscous
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Olive oil
- 1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine half rings
- 3 medium tomatoes (12 ounces), peeled and finely chopped (I used canned)
- 2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas
- 2 heaped cups peeled, seeded pumpkin or butternut squash cut into 1-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 cup zucchini cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 cups whole wheat couscous
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- Harissa (or sambal or any chile-garlic sauce)
Combine the spices in a small cup and set aside.
Put the oil in a largish saucepan and set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cinnamon stick. Stir for a few seconds and then add the onion. Stir and fry for about 3 minutes, or until the onion is medium brown (I fried the onion for almost 10 minutes). Now stir in the cup of mixed spices; almost right away, add the tomatoes. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened.
Add the chickpeas, pumpkin or squash, raisins, stock, and salt and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is just tender when pierced with the point of a knife. Add the zucchini and simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes, stirring gently now and then.
While the vegetables simmer, make the couscous. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. When it is about to boil, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium flame and toast the couscous in it for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the boiling water into the pot of couscous, add a teaspoon of salt, and stir once. Immediately cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit somewhere warm, still covered, for 15 minutes.
To serve, stir the cilantro and parsley into the finished vegetables. Fluff the couscous thoroughly with a fork. Put a mound of couscous on each plate. Make a well in the center and use a slotted spoon to fill it with solids from the stew. Dampen the couscous generously with the liquids. Pass harissa or other hot sauce on the side.