Lighten up with couscous and grilled fish

Sat, Dec 29, 2012, 00:00

Jewelled couscous and grilled fish is a refreshing party dish that can be easily scaled up for big numbers, writes DOMINI KEMP

At this stage, we are all probably fed up eating rich food and are counting down until the resolutions kick in. But as New Year's Eve looms large, I think the lure of one last bash - before diets are grasped like nettles (as in, very reluctantly) - is rather appealing, as long as the flavours veer as far away from the North Pole as possible.

This jewelled couscous is a bit of a mishmash of several recipes. I sometimes loathe regular old couscous if it's not freshly made, singing with lemon juice and at room temperature. It's also best in summer, when you can take that real citrus kick and cool it down with chunks of cucumber and juicy, sweet tomatoes. Does that sound too good to be true? Possibly. And as it's unlikely I'll be tucking into anything as summery as that for at least six months, here's how to perk up regular old couscous and make it appropriate for a New Year's Eve feast.

The key to this dish is to tone down the lemon juice by adding some orange juice. Warming it up with chillies, allspice and lots of dried fruit will also give it a warming feeling. Pomegranate will keep it crunchy and interesting, as will the cucumber and handfuls of chopped fresh herbs.

The couscous goes superbly with these fish skewers, which were not made with lovely firm chunks of white fish (which is ideal) but actually with sad little bits of supermarket fish. This meant that they slid off the skewers and did not behave impeccably for the photos. So fear not: you can ignore my instruction for threading on to skewers, if you prefer, and simply grill the fish on a high heat until slightly charred in places and piping hot. Then place it all on one big plate and dig in.

If you're very hungry, allow 200-250 grams of fish per person. If this is part of a few things on offer as a buffet-type communal supper, then 150 grams of fish is loads.

The same goes for the salad: if it's part of a larger bunch of things, you'll get eight portions out of it. But if it's the star attraction, then it would probably serve just six people. It is a good one to make a double quantity of, so you have something for the next day, to eat with a little goat's cheese, a few mixed leaves and some firm resolutions for the future.


Serves 6-8

200g giant couscous (or regular couscous)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Zest and juice of 1 orange

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/2 tsp mixed allspice

10 dried figs, roughly chopped

1 tbsp dried cherries

1 tbsp dried cranberries

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

70g shelled pistachio nuts

Seeds and juice of 1 pomegranate

4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

1 cucumber, deseeded and sliced

Big bunch of mint, parsley and or basil

Cook the couscous according to packet instructions, then drain and rinse under cold water. Let it cool down and drain completely. Then put it in a big bowl, pour the zest and juice over it, along with the red wine vinegar and olive oil. Add the allspice and season really well.

Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and taste. Adjust seasoning as desired; you may want more lemon juice or vinegar to give it more kick or you may even want a little squeeze of honey or maple syrup. Or simply add more spices, including salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.


Serves 4-6

1kg firm white fish, skin removed, cut into chunks

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

Pinch chilli flakes

Good glug olive oil (approx 50ml)

Salt and pepper

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

Big bunch flat leaf parsley, very finely chopped

In a large bowl, mix the garlic with the lemon juice, chilli flakes, olive oil, salt, pepper, spices and parsley. Add the fish chunks and gently stir so that the spices coat the fish. Set aside until ready to cook.

Either thread the fish onto pre-soaked wooden skewers or metal skewers and cook under a hot grill on a wire rack, until slightly charred and nice and hot.

If you can, turn them over, though you may find the fish falls apart as it sticks to some of the bars of the wire rack. Let them settle for a minute before removing them and placing them on top of the couscous and serving.

Food cooked and styled by Domini and Peaches Kemp


If you're not all shopped out after Christmas, get into the sales and buy yourself one of those fancy Le Creuset pots you've been hankering after all year. They're very dependable, come in great colours and are worth every penny.