Moroccan vegetable pot and couscous with pine nuts and dill

This warmly-spiced vegetable stew, sweet with parsnips and carrots and tangy with preserved lemons and dried apricots is the perfect winter warmer, and just right to break up the seasonal meat feast. And it smells so wonderfully festive as it cooks.

I have specified wholemeal – sometimes sold as wholegrain – couscous as an accompaniment, as I so much prefer it: it is nuttier than regular couscous but still fine and light. Were you to want to sprinkle some pomegranate seeds over, along with the dill and pine nuts, you’d get no argument from me.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 4-6METRICCUPS

FOR THE MOROCCAN VEGETABLE POT

  • 1 x 15ml tablespoon regular olive oil
  • 1 medium leek (trimmed and cut into approx 1cm / 1/4 inch slices)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large cinnamon stick (or 2 small)
  • 2 medium-large carrots (peeled and cut into chunky batons)
  • 2 medium-large parsnips (peeled and cut into large bite-sized chunks)
  • 1 medium-large aubergine (cut into large bite-sized chunks)
  • 250 grams potatoes (peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks)
  • 4 cloves garlic (bruised and slightly splintered with the flat side of a wide-bladed knife, then slipped out of their skins)
  • 500 grams drained chickpeas (from 1 x 700g / 25oz jar or 2 x 16oz tins)
  • 75 grams small pitted green olives
  • 75 grams soft dried apricots (halved)
  • 75 grams preserved lemons (finely chopped)
  • 1 litre cold water (or more as needed)
  • 1 fat pinch of saffron strands
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

TO SERVE

  • fresh coriander

FOR THE COUSCOUS WITH PINE NUTS AND DILL

  • 350 grams wholemeal couscous
  • 1½ teaspoons vegetable bouillon powder
  • 1½ teaspoons dried dill
  • 550 millilitres water from a freshly boiled kettle
  • 1 teaspoon regular olive oil
  • 75 grams pinenuts (toasted)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill plus a few intact fronds

METHOD

To make the Moroccan Vegetable Pot:

  1. Warm the oil in a large-ish, heavy-based casserole that has a tight-fitting lid and add the sliced leek, cumin seeds, ground ginger and cinnamon stick (or sticks) and cook, stirring, for a minute or so.
  2. Add the chopped carrots, parsnips, aubergines and potatoes along with the garlic, chickpeas, olives, apricots and preserved lemons. Pour in the water, sprinkle in the saffron and salt, give the pot a good stir and let it all come to the boil, before putting on the lid, turning the heat down and simmering for 35-45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, adding a little more water should the liquid have evaporated too much.
  3. Let your pan or casserole stand off the heat for 10-15 minutes before serving, sprinkled with chopped coriander. During which time you could be making the couscous.

To make the Couscous with Pine Nuts and Dill:

  1. Put the couscous into a fairly wide and shallow pan or dish, add the stock powder and dried dill and then the freshly boiled water and the oil, giving everything a good stir. Immediately clamp on a tight-fitting lid or cover with a plate and leave for 15 minutes.
  2. Uncover, and use a fork to break up the couscous until fluffed up into free-flowing grains, and then fork through about three-quarters of the toasted pine nuts and 1 tablespoon of fresh dill.
  3. Check to see if you want to add any salt, then turn into a warmed serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts and dill.

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