Last week we were eating slow cooked beef stew with sweet potato and thyme. It’s the time of year for heart warming food and if dishes like this can fill the freezer at the same time, so much the better. Both the stew and this dish can easily be doubled or tripled in quantity and then frozen for a later date. This spicy vegetarian cassoulet is packed full of flavour and yet has no meat. I love it’s apricots and and the pistachio and coconut lift the couscous from rather boring carb into something fitting a celebration. They taste like a mid week treat. Both the cassoulet and couscous keep well in the fridge, so we might often have these beans on Monday and then again on Thursday. There is a lot of pleasure in finishing work after a long day only to find this sitting in the fridge ready for your evening meal.
JP has been having rather a lot of Weetabix for his supper recently. It’s a bit disheartening preparing a meal for your child only to have it rejected and rejected with angry tears. Weetabix is our solution to these highly charged moments. At least he has something in his tummy that will hopefully ensure we all get a good night’s sleep. I was blown away therefore when he dug into these beans quite happily. I had added some yoghurt to ensure the spice was tempered and he happily ate away. He studiously avoided the , but loved the pistachios in the couscous.
The inspiration for this cassoulet comes from across the world. The mustard and cumin seeds are straight from Indian vegetarian cooking. The haricot beans are as per French cassoulet, that warm and comforting peasant dish so perfect after a day on the hills. Lastly, a Middle Eastern influence sees the addition of the dried fruit and cinnamon to give sweetness to the beans. If you can’t find haricot beans, you could use three tins of any beans. I like a mixture of dried apricots, sultanas and dates with the rest of the cassoulet, but the make up of this mixture can be changed to suit your tastes. The chilli powder is there for a background spicy kick, nothing more. Chilli powders vary massively in their heat. The one I use is properly spicy, so just 1/8 teaspoon is all that is needed. But add more or less depending on your need for spice.
To make the pistachio and coconut couscous, I put the couscous in a bowl and cover with hot vegetable stock. Put a plate over to contain the steam and five minutes later the stock will have been completely absorbed. Fluff up with a fork, add the remaining ingredients and it’s ready to eat. I use stock to enhance the flavour of the couscous rather than just plain hot water.
Spicy vegetarian cassoulet
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4cm/1½” ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp chilli powder (optional)
2 x 400g/14oz tins of tomatoes
1 x 400g/14oz tin of chickpeas, drained and washed
2 x 400g/14oz tins of haricot beans, drained and washed
150g/5oz mix of dried apricots, sultanas, dates
350ml/12½ fl oz vegetable stock
Pistachio and coconut couscous
240ml/8½ fl oz vegetable stock
40g/1½oz toasted almond flakes
50g/2oz desiccated coconut
1. Heat up the oil in a large pan with a lid. When hot (but not smoking) add the mustard and cumin seeds. The seeds will soon start to pop, so put the lid on and cook until most of the popping has stopped.
2. Add the onion, stir well and replace the lid. Cook the onions until they are translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and continue cooking for a further three minutes before you add the ground cumin, cinnamon, chilli powder (optional) and salt. Add enough salt for your palate; for me a ¼ teaspoon is just right.
3. Add the tins of tomatoes, stir well and then simmer for ten minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir the beans and chickpeas into the tomato mixture. Add the stock and simmer again for five minutes with the lid off.
5. Roughly chop the leaves of the and finely chop the stalks. Keep some of the leaves back to scatter over the top just as you serve, but stir in the rest and simmer for a further five minutes.