Monday, 26 January 2009

Parnip and lemon couscous - in the spirit of Burns night

Neither The Scientist nor I is Scottish, have lived in Scotland or indeed have been to Scotland together. However, we do like to have a little celebration for Burn's Night - because it's the night we first met. I know, awww (or alternatively, bleurgh). Our eyes first met amid a reel at a Burn's Night dinner and ceilidh at my college in Cambridge, where The Scientist had been brought by our mutual friend Vicki. After the ceilidh we all retreated to the MCR (common room for graduate students, with added rah because it's in Cambridge) where The Scientist and I talked for hours about the romance of sleeping under the stars. It was a memorable evening, although I still think he should have given up his chair to me instead of making me sit on the floor :) We didn't get together for another few months but things were definitely set on the path of eventual cat-ownership that night.

Our Burn's Night celebrations aren't terribly traditional - certainly not as traditional as the college dinner that night was. We sometimes manage neeps or tatties, and occasionally both, but I've never tried making - or even buying - a veggie haggis. This year our dinner was definitely more in the 'spirit' of Burn's Night than the actual letter. We'd been away for the weekend, you see, and we had most of our neep-less veggie box still to get through, so I subbed parsnip. It's a root vegetable after all. The Scientist was still fuelled up on the huge leisurely breakfast he'd had at the hotel that morning so we wanted to eat quite small. I looked up parsnip in my newly devised card classification system and settled on a lemon and parsnip couscous from the Riverford Cookbook. It was pretty easy anyway but I made it even easier by simply soaking the couscous and cut out the oil it would have been mixed with as well. The recipe called for boiling the parsnip which didn't seem to me to be as flavourful as roasting it but I went with it and it was nice. The lemon raised the dish to a much more interesting level and gave it a nice fresh zing. So, not a particularly Scottish dish, but enough to make us remember our more authentic dinner all those years ago. And yes, we have shared many a night's sky together since then - although we do still need to make a trip north of the border together :)

Lemon parsnip couscous - based on Riverford
Serves 2 as a main dish

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
100g couscous
juice and zest of one lemon
1 tsp or so parsley and coriander (would have used mint as well but we didn't have any)

Cover the couscous with hot stock and leave for ten minutes or so. Add more liquid if it seems to absorb it very fast.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and simmer the parsnip for about ten minutes or until soft.
Fluff up the couscous, add the parsnip, lemon zest and juice, and herbs. Stir to combine flavours and serve topped with toasted sunflower seeds.


Anonymous said...


GrannyM xx

Johanna said...

that's a sweet story and a great reason to celebrate burns night! It is a night I always mean to celebrate but usually forget about. And I can highly recommend making your own veg haggis - it tastes so good that it makes me wonder why people eat the meat version!