I must start by apologising for the paucity of posts lately. I've no really good excuse, but I've been struggling to find the time to cook anything new. Anyway, there are some dishes that I just never get around to adding to this blog, despite making them frequently. In this case I think it’s because I hardly think of it as a recipe at all – just some things thrown together. But this is my ultimate comfort food and whenever I feel like an unexpected item in the bagging area of life, then this is the dish I reach for - even if it is slightly odd.
According to my notebook I first made this a little over 2½ years ago, which was not long after I read the first Ottolenghi cookbook. It’s not an Ottolenghi dish – he wouldn’t sink so low – but it owes a lot to the combinations of flavours in that book. It’s not a pretty dish either, but it is very tasty and flexible. This recipe will serve to comfort 2 hungry people.
½ butternut squash or a whole small squash, peeled , deseeded and cut into 2-3 cm chunks
Small handful of shelled, unsalted pistachios (hazelnuts and macadamias work too)
3 or 4 sausages (I use meaty, herby pork or lamb and mint from a local butcher)
Small handful of sultanas (or chopped dried apricots)
1 or 2 red peppers, roasted, skinned and sliced
110 ml vegetable stock
120 g medium grain couscous
Chilli jam to serve
For the dressing:
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
Generous squeeze of lime juice
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Toss the squash in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 25-30 minutes until it’s soft and taking on a little colour but not falling apart completely. While the squash is roasting, cook the sausages. Since the oven’s on, I usually roast the sausages alongside the squash – they’ll probably need 20-25 minutes depending upon thickness. Spread the pistachios out on a dry baking tray and lightly toast in the same oven for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile make the dressing by simply combining all the ingredients in a jar and shaking vigorously for a little while.
When the squash is cooked, put it into a reasonably large bowl. Cut the cooked sausages into smallish chunks and add to the squash. Stir in the pistachios, sultanas and peppers. Pour over the dressing and stir it gently in. Leave to one side while you prepare the couscous.
Place the couscous in a lidded, ovenproof dish which is big enough to hold all the ingredients. Bring the stock to boiling point and pour it over the couscous, give it a stir, cover and leave it alone for 5 minutes.
Use a fork to fluff up the couscous a little and stir in the squash and sausage mix. Check the seasoning and add more if needed. Heat the oven to 160°C and put the dish in the oven to warm through for about 15 – 20 minutes – longer if you want it really hot, but oddly I prefer it warm.
A dollop of chilli jam on top of each serving finishes the dish off nicely, possibly with a quick drizzle of balsamic glaze for luck. If you don’t happen to have chilli jam lying around, then a fruity and smooth mango chutney with some sweet chilli sauce stirred into it also works really well for me.