Sweet & Spicy Couscous with Mini Eggplant, Mint & Peppers
Yes indeed, that is what this savory dish is made from! One teaspoon of sugar makes all the difference in this stewed eggplant and couscous dish... sounds strange- but it's true! It balances the tanginess of the mini eggplants and the spicy Ras al Hanout that make this such a wonderful combination!
And of course there were other good things in the mix too... celery, garlic, tomato paste, herbs and red peppers- perfect for a cold Winter evening, with a soupy consistency to warm me up and remind me of warmer, sunnier days- thank heavens!
I love those little eggplants- but you know, sometimes they can be a little extra-tangy- and there is only so much salt you can sprinkle on such a tiny thing! So I decided to add sweetness to the broth in which I would simmer them, not honey, as I have done before, but regular sugar, so as to not alter the flavor of the Ras al Hanout too much... but we will get to that soon enough!
I began by slicing two mini eggplants, and indeed sprinkling them with salt and allowing them to sit for 15-20 minutes. I also sliced celery, some red pepper, Spring onion and finely chopped garlic, parsley and mint and boiled up some water so that I would be raring to go as soon as the eggplant was ready- but in the meantime, I began by sautéing the celery and red pepper in a little olive oil, as they were the 2 ingredients that had the longest cooking time.
Once the celery was slightly translucent, I added the eggplant, which I briefly rinsed and wrung-out, and stirring constantly, browned just a little in the pan. At that point, I added a tablespoon of tomato paste, a tablespoon of ras al hanout powder, the chopped garlic, parsley and mint, and 2 handfuls of couscous, which amounted to a decent single-serving. Once everything was well mixed and beginning to look as if it may begin to stick to the pan, I deglazed it with a splash of boiling water- just enough to cover everything... and then turned the heat down to a gentle simmer. I put on the lid and let it simmer away for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, the couscous was basically cooked... but I wanted it to stew and soak up more liquid and flavors, to become softer and fluffier and yummier! So I added enough water again, to cover the now more voluminous couscous as well as a sprinkle of chili, a couple of sliced cherry tomatoes- and the aforementioned teaspoon of sugar... this is where the balancing act comes in! Once I was happy with the seasoning, I added a last splash of hot water and the lid... and went to set the table!
5 minutes after that, the couscous was lovely and fluffy, the broth had thickened and was wonderfully aromatic with ral al hanout and tomato... the mint and parsley added depth of flavor and yes, the sugar held it all together taste-wise!I really enjoyed it- and I hope that you will too!