I first came across Israeli couscous (funnily enough) in Israel where my reaction to it was only bemusement that Israel Grandma was referring to such a funny, thick, pasta-esque food as couscous. We just ate it boiled and it was pretty nice, but when I got back I suddenly started wanting to revisit it. You see, M&S do a delicious roasted squash and Israeli couscous salad - but they don't sell the couscous on its own. After looking in every ethnic supermarket I passed I had almost given up when where should it turn up but at the wonderful Bill's in Brighton! I bought some and used it up pretty quickly in salads. Luckily I stumbled upon some more in a more mundane location - Munchkin Granny's local Tesco - and stocked up. So when Lisa and Holler announced that this month's No Croutons Required was based on pasta soups I thought immediately of my inappropriately-named little friends.
It seems appropriate, although completely coincidental, that I found my inspiration in my Jewish Traditions cookbook - a tomato soup with Israeli couscous. I don't make brothy soups very often but the picture of this one looked so enticing that I made it exactly as it suggested (except for skipping the mint which I don't like). It was really quick - I put it all together after coming back from the gym and was eating within half an hour of coming through the door. It was tasty, brothy, spicy and chewy which I thought was a pretty impressive set of adjectives for such a simple soup. You could use any pasta but I did particularly like the small chewy 'mouthfeel' of the couscous - think barley but made of pasta if that makes any sense.
Tomato soup with Israeli couscous (from Jewish Traditions cookbook)
The only changes I made were to halve the quantity, use much less oil, leave out the mint and throw in a random ripe tomato with the tinned ones. This is the full and original version.
Serves four to six
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 1/2 pints veg stock
200g-250g Israeli couscous
2-3 mint sprigs, chopped, or several pinches of dried mint
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 bunch fresh coriander or about 4 sprigs, chopped
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and carrots, and cook gently for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the tomatoes, half the garlic, the stock, couscous, mint, ground cumin and coriander, with the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
2. Bring the soup to the boil, add the remaining chopped garlic, then reduce the heat slightly and simmer gently for 7-10 mins, stirring occasionally, or until the couscous is just tender. Serve piping hot, ladled into individual serving bowls.