Monday, August 9, 2010

North African "Risotto"

Well I set out to make a risotto with a North African flair. Technically it isn't risotto unless you use rice, and I usually do. However today I decided to stick to the North African theme and try to make couscous using the standard risotto technique. By "risotto technique" I mean sauté the rice first, add a bit of wine, soak up the wine and then slowly add warm stock while stirring. Well just use your brain and think of couscous instead of rice for this.

I started with a blend of spices for a bit of flavor.

1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp each of: nutmeg, tumeric, cayenne, ginger

I put a few tablespoons of butter into a sauce pan and let it melt. In the meantime I got some chicken stock simmering, and chopped up:

1 clove garlic
1 white onion
dried apricots to taste.
drain and rinse a can of chickpeas

I gave the onions and garlic a quick cook, and added the spice mix along with another tablespoon of butter.

Add a cup of the couscous and give it a quick stir in the butter mixture. Add in a cup of wine and the apricots.

While stirring add a cup of the stock at a time. DON'T add anymore until the first cup seems absorbed. This is where I ran into trouble, couscous is technically a pasta, not a grain like rice. Therefor the couscous absorbed the chicken stock very quickly, and expanded to fill the pot. I quickly added the chickpeas and a handful of sunflower seeds before the pot overflowed.

To finish the dish, I topped it with some chopped scallions and rough cut parsley.

This was absolutly delicious, and the parsley was a great addition. The sunflower seeds added a nice layer of texture, and the the apricots added a wonderful sweetness that played nicely with the flavor of the spice blend. But alas, it was not the risotto that I set out to make. I'm calling it a failure for now, but only because it met a different goal than I set out to reach. I will be trying this again, just not with couscous. I'm thinking of some kind of grain, bulger wheat, barley or maybe millet. This stuff was good, it just more of a pilaf than a creamy bowl of risottoy goodness.

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