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Couscous and mograbiah with oven-dried tomatoes

Mograbiah is a large variety of couscous that we were unable to find for this recipe but Italian fregola worked well. We also started this too late to make our own labneh but a soft goat’s cheese log rolled in dried mint and black pepper made a good substitute. We hope the guys at Ottolenghi wouldn’t be too horrified. Serve this for lunch or as a side dish for roast or barbecued meat.

Couscous and mograbiah with oven-dried tomatoes – serves 6 to 8

  • 16 large, ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthways
  • 2 tbsp muscovado sugar
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 250g mograbiah (or fregola)
  • 400ml chicken stock/veg stock
  • a pinch of saffron strands
  • 250g couscous
  • 1 tbsp picked tarragon leaves
  • 1 tbsp nigella seeds
  • 100g labneh (we used a soft goat’s cheese log rolled in dried mint and freshly ground black pepper)

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 2.

Put the halved tomatoes on a baking tray, with skins down, and sprinkle with the sugar, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, plus the balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper. Bake for 2 hours or until the tomatoes have lost their moisture.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions in 4 tbsp of the olive oil over a high heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until dark golden.

Cook the mograbiah or fregola in a large pan of salted boiling water (follow the instructions on the pack but cook until soft but with a little bite). Drain well and rinse under cold water.

Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan with the saffron threads and a pinch of salt. Put the couscous into a large bowl and add 3 tbsp  of the olive oil  and the boiling stock. Cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, fork the couscous to get rid of any lumps. Add the cooked mograbiah, the tomatoes and any juice, the onions and their oil, plus the tarragon and nigella seeds. Taste and adjust the seasoning and oil if needed – it will likely require a good dose of salt.

Serve the dish at room temperature with the labneh (or goat’s cheese) on top, drizzle with the rest of the oil and finish with the remaining nigella seeds.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi: the cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamami, Ebury Press, 2008.)

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