There are many things I love in life. Seeing greyhound puppies wearing tiny coats; those mini white chocolate Toblerone that come in massive sharing bags, and which I do not share; really hot showers where your skin is about one degree away from blistering under the spray… I could go on. But in this instance, I would like to declare my love for the following things:
- The NHS
Not necessarily in that order – but let’s work through them, shall we?
Christmas. ‘Tis the season to consume everything in front of you, regardless of whether or not it’s actually edible, and to stare lovingly (and a little smugly) at the gift spreadsheet you started in August. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t think of anything more festive than RIGID ORGANISATION. I’ve already made my Christmas cake and have been feeding it liberally with Cointreau and dark rum (because there’s no point in eating it unless it takes your legs out from under you), and I’ve even jarred a whole load of carrot chutney.
I absolutely love Christmas and, even though it’s changed a bit over the years as I’ve grown up, there’s still something inherently magical about lugging a whopping great tree through the front door and (very carefully) hanging (colour-coordinated) decorations on its boughs.
I don’t have much to say about alliteration – I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed writing the title. Festive Fruity Feta Couscous. Lovely.
Our NHS. Quite possibly the most valuable thing my taxes go towards, and certainly in need – and deserving – of our support, respect, and protection. Since September this year I’ve been hospitalised twice with gallbladder/gallstone complications, and even though it’s been a very frustrating and incredibly boring time for me, I consider myself privileged to have access to such a life-saving service.
Which is to say — I’m really sorry for my absence, but I’ve got a really good excuse. 2020 is officially the year of having my gallbladder whipped out (following a funky sonic endoscopy after Christmas) and then I’ll be back to normal.
So without further ado, and with adoration for our National Health Service safe within our hearts (I’ve sequestered mine in the left ventricle), I give to you an easy, festive, fruity recipe.
Festive Fruity Feta Couscous (Vegetarian)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Heat safe bowl and a plate that will cover it; baking tray lined with greaseproof; wooden spoon; fork; the usual cutting and slicing thingimajigs; measuring jug.
- 1/2 butternut squash
- 1/2 pomegranate (or a generous handful of the seeds)
- 50g feta cheese
- 60g walnuts
- 120g couscous
- 3-4 sage leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 vegetable stock cube (optional)
- 200ml boiling water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Pop your oven on at 200°C and boil a kettle. Any kettle will do, but ideally one you will continue to have access to; if you’re nipping round your neighbour’s to illicitly use their kitchen, please note that I do not endorse this (and also, kettles are very loud, so you will be found out). Start off by prepping the squash (see step 3 here if the very idea of this makes you quake with fear) – start off by splitting it in half so you’re left with the slimmer top section of the vegetable. Peel it if you want, but you can absolutely leave the skin on in this instance. Cut it into bite-sized chunks and add to the baking tray. Crush the garlic cloves a little with the back of your knife – lean your weight onto the flat of the blade with the palm of your hand and press down – but leave them unpeeled. Roughly chop your sage, and add the herbs and garlic to the tray along with a little salt & pepper, then drizzle over the oil. Coat everything using a utensil or your (clean) hands, then put in the oven to roast for 20-25 minutes.
- Add your dry couscous to your bowl and measure out your boiling water, using a stock cube for added flavour if you like (I certainly like, but it is very much optional), then pour this over the couscous. Put the plate on top of the bowl and leave it alone for 5 minutes while it cooks.
- Prepare the rest of your ingredients! Roughly chop the walnuts and crumble the feta with a fork. You can either get a small bowl for the pomegranate seeds, or just bash them straight into the couscous at the end, but either way it’s really easy: just halve a pomegranate, then turn one half so that it’s pointing towards your trusty bowl. Whack the fruit with the back of a wooden spoon and watch as it starts to rain delicious pomegranate seeds.
- When the squash is cooked through it will be soft and colouring slightly, which is perfect. Take the plate off the couscous and fluff it gently with a fork. Reserving the garlic, add the squash, sage, walnuts, feta, and pomegranate seeds to the couscous. The garlic will be hot but you should be able to squeeze the soft, gooey middles out of their skins and mash them with the back of a fork, before adding this to the rest of the ingredients. Mix everything up again with the fork (a most trustworthy tool), then divide between two bowls and serve.
I’ll try to put up some more recipes over the coming weeks, especially as we’re working our way towards that most festive of days – Christmas, obviously – and I will be cooking my little socks off. January will see the return of what the hell do I do with all this bread sauce, and while I will happily make these absolutely banging Bon-Bons again, I’d love to try and think up something else to do with it. It will probably also be fried.
Finally, if you could all keep your fingers, toes, legs and arms crossed for me, I would really appreciate it. May general anaesthetic make my late-December an absolute breeze.