Couscous to accompany a Moroccan-style meal: Spiced Squash and Couscous Salad

Spiced Squash and Couscous Salad The Boyfriend and I are about to head off to Morocco in a week’s time so I thought I should use up my last year’s supply of Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout on a meal for the Writer – who brought me my first taste of spices from Morocco – and her husband. I decided to make my favourite Moroccan Lamb Tagine and, to accompany it, thought that I’d jazz up my usual plain couscous a little.

A lonely-looking squash in the fridge from the tail end of last season’s shopping, tossed with some olive oil and spices (I used Ras al hanout but you could easily substitute a mixture of ground cumin, coriander and chilli powder) happily roasted in the oven alongside the tagine. While it tenderised and caramelised, I prepared the couscous, adding in some thinly sliced red onion (for tang), toasted pine nuts (for crunch) and dried cranberries or “craisins” (for sweet tartness). Inspired by an idea from New Zealand cook Allyson Gofton, I grabbed a couple of oranges from the fruit bowl, threw the zest on top of the couscous and used the juice for a dressing. Living in a first floor flat without window sills means that there’s a dearth of fresh herbs these days, unlike last summer in NZ, but I had a little bunch of chives which I added to the salad although, I have to say, parsley (as suggested below) would have been much better.

Spiced Squash and Couscous Salad is good with a tagine but nearly even better in a lunchbox the following day, with a dollop of natural yoghurt, so you get to appreciate all the tastes and textures. This is also a very good salad for stuffing in pita breads or rolling up in a flatbread but do make sure that you serve it at room temperature – the flavour is very much dulled when it is refridgerator-cold.

Spiced Squash and Couscous Salad
Squash – 1, small
Ras al hanout – 1½ teaspoons OR
Ground cumin – ½ teaspoon and
Ground coriander – ½ teaspoon
Chilli powder – ½ teaspoon
Olive oil
Couscous – 2 cups
Boiling water – 3 cups
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Pine nuts – 50g, roasted
Red onion – 1, finely sliced
Dried cranberries – 50g
Oranges – 2, rind and juice
Fresh parsley – 1 small bunch, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Peel, core and chop the squash into pieces about 2cm square. Place in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the ras al hanout or cumin, coriander and chilli and a little olive oil and mix well. Roast for 40-50 minutes until tender and starting to caramelise.

Put the couscous into a microwave-proof bowl and season well. Pour the boiling water over, cover the bowl and leave to stand for 5 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork, microwave for 2 minutes on high, and then re-fluff. Heat an empty heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat, throw in the pine nuts and cook until browned.

Add the pine nuts, red onion, parsley, orange rind and juice to the couscous, season well and toss with enough olive oil to moisten. Lay the spiced roast squash on top of the salad and toss again, gently.

Serve at room temperature.
Serves 4.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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4 Responses

  1. Kieran says:

    I’m so jealous! I was there in February and had an amazing time. I’m still working through my stash of spices! Have fun.

  2. Caroline says:

    Any foodie recomendations, Kieran? You were in Marrakesh, weren’t you? We’re going there, Casablanca and Essasouria. Well, that’s the plan at the moment. Who knows what may happen!

  3. Kieran says:

    Don’t be shy about eating fish on the pier in Essaouria. There are annoying touts trying to get you to sit and eat but once you do they are friendly, and the fish is fab – you can pick the actual fish and they whack it on the grill. There’s a picture here. I don’t know if you found a place to stay, but we splurged and stayed in Villa Quieta, which out of town on the beach and brilliant service.In Marrakesh, I didn’t have anything too spectacular, but didn’t go too far wrong either. The orange juice in the square is fabulous…

  4. Caroline says:

    Thanks for that tip, Kieran. It’s so easy to get fed up with touts and leggit when, if you persevered, it could turn into a great experience. We’re arriving in Casablanca on Sunday, going via a wedding in England, and not at all booked into anything at yet! Should be, to say the least of it, interesting…

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