I was recently browsing the gluten free section in my local supermarket and was surprised to see free from cous cous on the shelf. Gluten free cous cous, how could that be? Cous cous is traditionally made from wheat semolina, but on further inspection this gluten free variant turned out to be made from coarsely ground maize. Eager to try it out I bought a box and headed home to experiment.
You cook the cous cous in the same way as the traditional kind, Simply pour over some hot liquid, cover and steam to steep for a few minutes. The grains absorb the water, puff up and become light, moist and fluffy. I was very impressed that this maize cous cous worked the same way. To flavour mine I added some spices and then used vegetable stock combined with some garlic and tomato to add extra flavour. I love the red orange hue this gave the cous cous.
To accompany my cous cous I added a mix of roasted and raw vegetables. I always think a mix of both adds great texture to salads. You have the soft sweetness from the roasted veg and then the fresh crisp and crunch from the raw.
My roasted veg were a colourful mix of peppers and red onion. I love the sweetness and fruitiness that develops from peppers as they are roasted. They are crisp and quite watery when raw but a short bake in the oven and they become soft and intensely flavoured. Very pretty too.
The raw element was a mix of green salad vegetables and thin strips of carrot. I always think the mix of greens together looks so fresh and inviting. When mixed all together and some cubes of feta stirred through, it made for a very fresh and colourful cous cous salad.
How did it taste? I was impressed. The cous cous didn’t go mushy, but kept its individual granular shape and texture. It was soft and light, slightly earthy maybe, but very similar to my memories of real cous cous. The mix of roasted and raw veg added great texture and flavour, while the cheese added a nice creamy, salty note. I think it would have been nice to stir through a big handful of fresh herbs too, but I didn’t have any to hand. It kept me going for lunches for 4 days. Perfect for the warmer summer days.
Roasted Veg & Feta Salad with Gluten Free Cous Cous
1 x each red, yellow & green pepper
1 red onion
2 tsp vegetable oil
150g gluten free ‘cous cous’ (made from maize – seen in Tesco & Asda)
300ml hot vegetable stock
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp sun dried tomato puree
1 clove garlic
2 inch chunk of cucumber
Handful sugarsnap peas
2 spring onions
2 fresh springs rosemary
Zest of ½ lemon
100g feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with foil.
Cut your peppers into 1-2cm squared pieces. Slice the red onion in half and then each half into slices, but leave it assembled as a half, don’t separate out the slices. Place all the veg onto the baking tray, leaving the onion assembled as a whole half, and drizzle over a little oil. (Leaving the sliced onion assembled will prevent it burning on the oven)
Bake for 15 minutes, then give the veg a bit of a stir before baking for a further 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Place the cous cous into a large bowl. Stir through the smoked paprika, cumin and cinnamon. Heat your stock until steaming. Finely grate the garlic into a pulp and stir into the stock along with the tomato puree.
Pour the hot stock over the spiced cous cous, give a quick stir and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to steam for 5-7 minutes so the stock can be absorbed.
Peel your carrot and then use the peeler to cut very thin strips of carrot. Cut the strips into long thin batons using a sharp knife. (You want tiny strips of carrot like you something see in mixed salad bags).
Cut the cucumber into strips and then chop into small pieces. Slice the sugar snap peas and spring onions on a slight diagonal to get long thin pieces.
Return to the cous cous and use a fork to fluff up the grains so they are light and separate from each other.
Stir through the roasted and raw veg. Use your hands to pull the sliced red onion into its individual half moon slices.
Finely chop the fresh rosemary and scatter over the top along with the finely grated zest of the lemon. Give everything a good stir.
Cut the feta into small cubes and stir though gently.
Taste and season accordingly.
Serves 4 as a main meal or great as a side dish