Packed lunches are a bit of a necessity when you're out and about with kids - they want to eat when they want to eat (waiting for it to be cooked is not an option) and what they want to eat (whether it's on the menu or not). As a result, my family eats a LOT of picnics at this time of year. Not that I'm complaining - even the simplest of lunches tastes amazing eaten in the great outdoors, especially if you've been active enough to work up an appetite beforehand. While my kids are more than happy with a sandwich or wrap, I like to change things up and will often take along a salad for my lunch. This couscous salad is a current favourite - it tastes just as good cold as it does hot, it is full of flavour, and it is robust enough to withstand transportation.
As well as being a great picnic dish, it would make a fantastic accompaniment to grilled meat (especially lamb skewers) at a barbecue, and I'm looking forward to trying it with grilled halloumi the next time I make it. This quantity of couscous salad will serve four as a light lunch or six as a side dish.
Couscous Salad with Roast Summer VegetablesServes 4-6
Roast summer vegetables
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 small red onions
8 garlic cloves (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander and paprika
4 spring onions, finely sliced
325ml hot vegetable stock
juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
300-g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
First, prepare the vegetables. Deseed the peppers and cut the flesh into 2.5-cm chunks. Peel the onions, removing any roots but keeping the root ends intact. Slice each onion in half through the root, then cut each half into four wedges through the root so the layers don't separate. Trim the ends off the courgettes. If the courgettes are thick, cut them in half lengthways before cutting them into 1-cm-thick slices. Finally, break the garlic cloves, if using, from the bulb but do not remove the papery skins.
Put all the vegetables in a large food bag, pour in the oil and add the oregano and pepper to taste. Holding the top firmly, shake the bag until the vegetables are thoroughly coated in the oil and seasonings. Tip the contents of the bag into a large roasting tin. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened and the edges are brown in places.
Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. Put the couscous into a large heatproof bowl and stir in the spices and spring onions. Pour in the hot stock, then cover and leave to stand for at least 5 minutes. Fluff up the grains with a fork, then stir in the lemon juice, lemon rind, chickpeas and pepper to taste.
Remove the roast vegetables from the oven and leave to cool down for a few minutes, then add to the couscous and gently stir through. Serve immediately or leave to cool down slightly and transfer to the fridge - this couscous salad is delicious eaten hot or cold.
- To eat the garlic, simply squeeze the soft pulp out of the papery skin. Roasting garlic like this mellows the flavour, making it almost sweet and not at all pungent.