Cuscus didn’t enter into my life until rather late … on a visit to Tunisia staying with a best friend and her family six years ago and I just fell in love. I had always presumed cuscus to be “typical” of North Africa/the Maghreb and so picture my surprise when I found out that it was also very popular in Sicily where it is served with fish customarily (as opposed to the lamb in Tunisia). I have yet to visit Sicily (I can’t wait!) but have played around with fish and cuscus recipes of my own invention with satisfying end results even if I say so myself. The most recent “invention” was actually a much simplified version of a recipe of Henz Beck’s, the highly acclaimed Italian chef and stellar guide of the uber haute cuisine restaurant “La Pergola” in Rome.
Okay … ready?
Clams … “vongole” … about 1 kg.
6 large zucchini (courgettes)
1 large clove of garlic or 2 small ones (without their skins)
1 carrot, peeled and cut into long, thinnish slices and then againchopped into baby cubes (chopped up in other words)
Some extra virgin olive oil of your liking
Half a glass of white wine
A handful of whatever fresh herbs that you relish (parsely, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil)
Cut the courgette on the round side (i.e. not lengthways) into three or four parts.
Remove the pulp from each cut-up courgette/zucchina with a small sharp knife … this part is a bit dodgy, you have to be patient and take it slowly, rotating the aubergine in one hand (left if you are right-handed) and raking about its interior with the other. Maybe a teaspoon can help too, to scrape out any bits.
Throw the courgettes into a pan of salted water that has just come to the boil. Leave in there for about 2 minutes and then drain and allow to cool.
Next, in a large saucepan … pour enough olive oil to cover the entire surface of the pan’s diameter, add the garlic and turn on the heat at a gentle level. When the garlic has turned golden, remove it and add the carrots and cook for about 3 minutes. At this point add the clams, the wine and cover the saucepan with a lid. Turn up the heat and cook for about 3-5 minutes until all the clams have opened. Remove the lid and allow to cool.
Cook the cuscus with the liquid derived from the clams, adding a tiny amount of butter and as many chopped herbs as you like. The idea is to stuff each courgette with this cuscus and the clams … and indeed I started out doing just this. But it got too fiddly after a while and I was in an impatient mood … so I threw it all together in a nice silver platter.
Don’t you think it looks nice? It tasted wonderful and put me in the mood for …. (fill in the gaps).