Saturday, 2 August 2014

Colors of the Orient!

Carote Nere in Agrodolce con Couscous alle Spezie Orientale
Sweet & Sour Purple/Black Carrots with Oriental-Spiced Couscous

Another quick, light, healthy and exotic dish for you here! Sweet and sour carrots are quite a normal dish in Italy, you will find them on many antipasti spreads at the restaurant and are really yummy- which is why I wanted to make some this evening... but you all know me by now!

Being as that dish already exists and can be looked-up a million times over in any number of books, magazines or websites... of course I had do something a little different with mine! And so... I did this! I am pretty sure you will all approve! Especially if you try them for yourselves!


Of course this is essentially just a side-dish and the Italian version is made with regular, orange carrots, I decided to try out the slightly earthier purple ones and to jazz them up a little with fresh marjoram and lemon zest- a super combination as it turned out!

I spiced the couscous using a spice-mix widely used in the Orient for flavoring soups known as "Chorba". These can include coriander, cumin, turmeric, oregano, saffron, chili and lime juice... lovely and spicy yet mild and aromatic... great stuff! get some at your local ethnic market if you can!


For 2 good portions, I needed: 1 cup of course Israeli couscous, 4-5 small purple carrots, 1 Spring onion, 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of chorba spices, 1 tablespoon of raisins and a little fresh parsley and marjoram. 


Don't let appearances deceive you my friends... this not only looks incredibly colorful- the array of flavors is equally impressive and wonderful when you eat it! It really is a beautiful dish!

I prepared my carrots by scrubbing and not peeling, which is a personal preference... but let me just warn you in advance... that outer layer of peel will stain anything it touches purple or black- including your fingers!

I topped and tailed the carrots, halved them and then cut the half-lengths into sticks.


And this was where the multi-tasking began! At the same time that I started the couscous boiling, in twice the amount of salted water, I popped the carrot sticks into my frying pan, poured-in enough boiling water to cover the base, seasoned them with salt and popped on the lid to let them simmer away for 4-5 minutes.

After that time, the water had been absorbed/evaporated away and the carrots were almost cooked- although as you can see they looked rather black indeed from the color of the skins. So I briefly rinsed them and the pan with clear water before continuing- after all- we all like out food to look yummy, don't we?


I popped the carrots back into the pan and added the juice of one whole lemon- and pow! The color was back as if by magic- as was a wonderful tangy aroma. I now added a little sesame oil, tossed the carrots gently to get them all coated, and continued cooking so that they fried gently on the outside and developed a richer aroma.


In the meantime the couscous had absorbed all of the water and grown considerably in size, but was still moist... the perfect time to add the chopped onion, raisins and the chorba spice. I stirred these all together, added a little sesame oil and lemon juice and then allowed the residual heat finish fluffing the couscous up and half-cook the onion to make it more pleasant to eat... and of course to soak up all of those wonderful flavors!

I added a generous sprinkle of parsley to the couscous for added freshness before serving the carrots on top- and it was already delicious just as it was!


But of course, to be complete, there were a few things left to be done. First of all, I added pepper and honey to the carrots and tossed them before laying them out on top of the couscous. I then sprinkled them with finely chopped lemon zest and plenty of fresh marjoram- these were the 2 flavors, that along with the honey, made this whole thing come alive... and how!


 Doesn't that just look amazing?


Still not sure? Well the only way you will ever know it to try making for yourselves... and to dig-in and find out! Go on! Enjoy!

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