Risotto Style Pearl Couscous with Roasted Vegetables

I randomly bought pearl couscous on a whim about 6 months ago. Guess what was still sitting in my pantry unopened today?

It wasn’t because I didn’t have any ideas about what to cook with it, it’s just that I seldom cook with pearl couscous and last time I made it I wasn’t too happy with how it turned out so needed to get motivated to try cook with it again.

Alas, I have taken a risotto style approach for preparing the couscous instead. What I ended up with a huge burst of flavour within a filling and healthy meal. Perfect!

I was hesitant to include the word risotto in this recipe at all because quite frankly it’s not a risotto. But it is similar to the style of cooking I used to prepare the couscous today. Grains absorbing the cooking liquid and leaving them al dente with additional ingredients mixed in. Works for me.

This recipe is conveniently vegetarian.

Pearl Couscous – Risotto Style (serves 2-3)

What you’re going to need

3/4 cup pearl couscous

1 400 ml bottle passata (or 1 tin tomatoes, pureed using a stick blender)

1 clove garlic, minced or grated with a microplane

1/2 zucchini, sliced into thick matchsticks

1/2 eggplant, sliced lengthways into rectangular pieces

3 small vine ripened tomatoes, kept whole

50 g haloumi, processed into a rough crumb

small handful basil leaves, roughly chopped

olive oil

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius. On a lined baking tray, add the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until soft and browned (~20 minutes)
  2. Using a saucepan that has a lid, heat up a small drizzle of olive oil on a medium heat. Cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the Passata and mix well.
  3. Add the pearl couscous, mix and allow to get to a simmer. Place the lid on whilst cooking and stir every 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste. Cook until pearl couscous is al dente and tomatoes are still saucy. (Note: if you’re finding it too thick, add small amounts of water). Mix in chopped basil.
  4. In a small fry pan, quickly pan fry the haloumi for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Once couscous, eggplant and zucchini are ready, mix together in the saucepan with the haloumi. Serve hot with the roast tomato in the centre.

Pearl couscous with roast vegetables

 

Sausage Pasta Bake

Even though the weather is getting warmer, I am still persistent on baking most of my meals! Especially coming towards the end of the year with my first accounting exam and last colour belt grading for martial arts, I am willing to do just about anything to make the cooking process more efficient. I would love to spend hours in the kitchen but at the moment, I just can’t. Alas, I still want to create tasty meals for my family and keep up with my Sunday family dinner routine.

If you trawl back through some of my older posts, you’ll see I have already shared a few pasta bake recipes however this is my first tomato based one. I kept it simple and whipped up the sauce and ingredients all in one pan! (separate saucepan for boiling pasta though). If you’re super hungry and want to eat it quicker, you can skip the baking step! However if you’re all about the gooey cheese factor, then would strongly recommend finishing it off in the oven. It also makes it easier to portion for leftovers (which I accidentally catered for 6 people instead of 4 so now I have enough for lunches, yay!)

Sausage Pasta Bake (serves 4-6)

What you’re going to need

300 grams large spiral pasta (I used San Remo)

6 medium sized beef sausages

1 400g bottle Passata

1/2 zucchini, finely grated

1/2 carrot, finely grated

1 clove garlic, grated with Microplane or minced

4 small cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

handful basil leaves

salt and pepper to season

olive oil for frying

grated cheese for topping

Method

  1. Boil a large pot of water with salt and cook pasta until just under al dente (still a bit firm as it will further cook in the oven). Set aside.
  2. In a large fry pan, heat up the olive oil on a medium heat. Brown the sausages in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside on a chopping board.
  3. Reduce the heat in the pan to low, add a bit more olive oil and then add the carrot, zucchini and garlic. Stir and leave to become fragrant. Whilst this is happening, go back to the sausages and cut them into 2 cm sliced chunks.
  4. Once pan is fragrant, add the Passata, sausages and mushrooms. Mix well and season. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Whilst simmering, turn on your oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  5. Once the Passata has reduced, add the cooked pasta and basil. Stir well to ensure all pasta is adequately coated in the sauce.
  6. In a large baking dish, carefully spoon all the pasta mix into the dish and spread evenly. Top with a generous helping of grated cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve hot. *

Sausage Pasta Bake

*Recipe is freezer friendly if there are leftovers.

 

Quinoa Tuna Bake

I am a massive fan of pasta bake. Creamy, cheesy pasta bake. Having IBS and being mildly lactose intolerant doesn’t mean one of my favourite dishes is ruined. As this was intended for work lunches, I wanted it to be lighter and healthier than the original pasta bake.

So… I switched out the pasta for quinoa. This was definitely an experiment. I have cooked with quinoa numerous times and have a good feel about what flavours work best with it. And since tinned tuna has basically become a staple part of my diet, I have incorporated tuna into the dish as well (over the usual BBQ chicken and bacon). I also figured if I was trying to “healthify” my favourite dish to this extent, I should add broccoli as well.

Now to the sauce. I went for more of a buerre blanc style sauce instead a bechamel style sauce which is what the pasta bake I have at home normally consists of. Definitely losing health points here but hey, the flavour needs to come from somewhere.

In conclusion, I only post food that I believe is worth trying out for yourself so if i wasn’t happy with this, I would not have shared. Be brave and see how you go.

Quinoa Tuna Bake (serves 6, or 6 work lunches for 1)

What you’re going to need

1 cup quinoa, cooked to packet instructions

1/2 broccoli, roughly chopped in small pieces

2 tins 75g tuna (I used Greenseas Tuna in Oil but you can use the Springwater one as well)

cheddar cheese, for grating on top

Sauce

1/3 cup white wine (I use Sauvignon Blanc for cooking but up to you)

150ml cream (I use lactose free)

1-2 tablespoon butter (to taste)

sprinkle nutmeg

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius
  2. In a saucepan on a medium heat, add the wine and cook out the alcohol. Add the cream and butter and stir until well combined. Add the nutmeg and any seasoning.
  3. Add the cooked quinoa, broccoli and tuna to the sauce or vice versa (you will need a big saucepan for this) and mix until all the added ingredients are coated in the sauce.
  4. *** Add mixture into a large baking dish and distribute evenly. Top with grated cheddar  (i’ll leave you to decide how much cheese you want to add).
  5. Pop in the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and darkened slightly. Serve warm.

quinoa-tuna-bake

*** If you don’t want cheese on top, then you can skip the oven steps. Another option for extra flavour is a homemade chunky breadcrumb to give the dish more texture.