Tag Archives: sides


The Major detests couscous and declares it to be fluffed cardboard. He has a point: unadorned, without the juices of a nice lamb stew seeping through, it’s about as exciting as pasta without sauce. (Which is exactly what it is.)

Here’s one way to enliven it. You will need:

  • 500g couscous
  • two large onions
  • 1/2 tsp each of cumin, turmeric, ground cinnamon, plus four cloves and six (shelled) cardamom pods
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • one 450g tin chopped tomatoes
  • one 450g tin cooked chickpeas (no need to drain)
  • 150g plain (a.k.a. “Greek”) yoghurt

Finely slice and fry the onions in a large pot with a generous splash of vegetable oil. They need to get light brown and crunchy, as though you were making pilao rice, so expect this to take around 10 minutes.

Add the salt and spices, fry for around a minute, before dumping in the tomatoes, chickpeas and yoghurt. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.

In the meantime, boil the kettle, put the couscous in a bowl, and pour over enough boiled water to cover, which is probably less than would be recommended on the packet. Give it a good stir until the grains start to swell and absorb all the water, then hoik it into the pot with everything else. Turn off the heat, cover, and leave for ten minutes.

The Major ate all the couscous I set before him.


Cucumber Raita

There are zillions of variations – this particular one is what I serve alongside a vigorous curry.

  • a small cucumber, or half a large one – about 200g
  • 150g of plain (a.k.a. “Greek”) yoghurt
  • a pinch of dried mint
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of mustard seeds – not essential

Cut the cucumber lengthways into four, and trim off the inner section with the seeds, as this will exude too much water. No need to peel the cucumber. Dice this flesh finely, and add to the yoghurt, mint and salt.

If you have some mustard seeds on the premises, lightly crush a pinch of these and add.

Serves four.

Spanish Rice

I suspect this isn’t actually Spanish. It works nicely with the leftover chilli in the fridge.

Peel and chop a clove of garlic, and fry in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add 200g long grain rice, and continue to fry for about three minutes. Pour over 450mL boiling water, add a scant half teaspoon of paprika, a teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of salt and, optionally, a tablespoon of tomato paste. Return to the boil, then reduce the heat to the barest simmer.

Cover and leave for around 15 mins. The ideal result is that all the liquid has been absorbed, the rice on top is soft and fluffy, and, even better, the rice on the bottom is verging on burnt.

The boiling water could be replaced with chicken stock if you’re feeling festive.

You might want to fry some slivered almonds with the garlic, and stir in some coriander leaves just before serving.