ottolenghi couscous and mograbiah with oven-dried tomatoes

i’ve been in a cooking rut. i’ve really been struggling to motivate myself to cook new and interesting things – eating out, cheese on toast and “any ol’ pasta as long as it’s quick” have been my mainstays for the past few weeks.

as a result i’ve been feeling bloated and lethargic (the excess of wheat carbs and a lack of vegetables will do that to a girl) and broke (impoverished, rather than physically in pieces) so it’s time to get things back on track.

the ottolenghi cookbook is a recent purchase and despite an initial flurry of enthusiasm i’ve barely touched it so decided this was the answer to my problems – cook some gorgeous food, using recipes so inspiration is not required, and see what happens…

well, i cooked lots, various bits of which will be posted about over the next week or so, and i’m hoping i’m back on track. which i really need to be as i need to get hold of some inspiration to finish up stuff in my kitchen cupboards before we move house in the next 4-6 weeks, more of which later…

oh, and in case you were wondering what the mystery ingredient was in my pervious post and what i did with it – the answer is mograbiah (a type of large couscous) which was included in this ottolenghi couscous and mograbiah with oven dried tomatoes and labneh.

it was nice. a bit rich for me, i’d probably up the couscous/mograbiah content to balance out the roasted tomatoes and labneh a bit more. it lasts well though – a week in the fridge is fine and it's delicious as a packed lunch or picnic option.

ottolenghi couscous and mograbiah with oven-dried tomatoes (serves 6-8)

16 large ripe plum tomatoes, halved lengthways

2 tablespoons muscovado sugar

150ml olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 onions, thinly sliced

250g mograbiah

400ml stock

a pinch of saffron strands

250g couscous

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves

1 tablespoon nigella seeds

labneh made with 300g greek yoghurt*

salt & pepper

preheat the oven to 150c.

arrange the tomato halves on a tray, skin-side down, and sprinkle with the sugar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper (i find it much easier to put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well before laying the tomatoes on the tray). place in the oven and bake for 2 hours or until the tomatoes have lost much of their moisture.

meanwhile, put the ovens in a large pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté over a high heat for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are a dark golden colour. set aside.

cook the mograbiah in boiling salted water until soft but just retains its bite (c15 minutes). drain well and rinse in cold water. in a separate pan bring the stock to the boil with the saffron and a little salt. place the couscous in a large bowl, add 3 tablespoons olive oil and the boiling stock then cover with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes.

once ready, mix the couscous with a fork to fluff it up and get rid of any lumps. add the cooked mograbiah, roasted tomatoes (and any juices), the tarragon and half the nigella seeds. season to taste – it is likely it will need salt – and leave to come to room temperature. to serve, arrange the mixture on a large shallow dish, top with the labneh balls, drizzle with extra olive oil and the rest of the nigella seeds.

*this is the way i make my labneh - mix the greek yoghurt with just enough fien grain salt that you can taste it. put the yoghurt in a muslin cloth and place in a sieve/ tie to a ta-p over your sink. leave overnight and liquid will drain away leaving behind a thickened curd. this is your labneh. place in the fridge for 4-6 hours to solidify and then roll into little balls. the labneh balls in this salad were then rolled in a mixture of dried mint and freshly ground pepper, as suggested by ottolenghi.