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Festive fig and chestnut couscous

publication date: Dec 16, 2011
author/source: Fiona Beckett
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A vegan alternative for the Christmas celebrations which would also make a great accompaniment to turkey if you’re a meat-eater. I wouldn’t make it with fresh chestnuts just because they’re so fiddly to prepare but any of the pre-packed alternatives would be fine.

Serves 4
Time: about half an hour
Cost: about £1.25-£1.50 a head

4 tbsp sunflower or light olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3-4 carrots (about 350g), peeled and finely sliced
3 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely sliced
300g tinned, vacuum packed or frozen chestnuts
175g ready-to-eat figs
3 tbsp dairy-free spread
1 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
150g instant couscous
150ml boiling vegetable stock made with 1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder or 1/4 vegetable stock cube
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pomegranate (optional)

Heat a casserole or large frying pan, add the oil and cook the chopped onion, carrot and celery for about 7/8 minutes until beginning to soften and brown. Add half a glass (about 100 ml) of water, and cook for  another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the water has evaporated. (Add a little more water if they dry out) Meanwhile finely chop the chestnuts and the figs. Turn up the heat in the pan and add the dairy free spread. Let it melt then add the chestnuts and figs, stir and fry for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle over the spice, season with salt and stir again. Turn the heat right down, add the couscous and boiling stock, stir then leave for 5 minutes for the couscous to absorb the water. Meanwhile cut the pomegranate in half and scoop out the seeds, leaving the pith behind. Fork the couscous through, check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste and stir in the chopped parsley. Serve on a big plate with the pomegranate seeds scattered over the top.


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