Recipe: Couscous-Chili

I cannot believe it’s April already! Thankfully, I noticed this month creeping up on us on time to choose a dish for our annual tradition of being a cooking/baking blog for one day (with a couple rare extra entries) instead of writing about PC games.

This year’s April recipe is Couscous-Chili. A dish that we have on our “convenience food” list for when we’re stressed or super busy with real life (work, mostly), but still want a “real” dinner and not some takeaway food. It is a dish that happens to also be vegetarian. It is not a variation of chili trying to substitute the meat. That is, the couscous will not taste like minced meat and it’s not supposed to. It will taste like couscous! We’re not vegetarians, but we also don’t eat meat all of the time. Our usual diet just happens to contain meat sometimes and sometimes, it doesn’t. ;) We also don’t always have minced meat in the freezer, but we always do have couscous at home. It’s a convenient dish that can be made fast since a lot of the ingredients can be bought in cans. Only the red pepper bells are fresh – we have bought them frozen, cut in stripes, before, but this is really only good for a dish where the red pepper bell can be squishy and soft like a tomato. For this, we don’t like it. So we always prefer fresh red pepper bells for this recipe.

Ingredients needed (for 2 people):

150 g couscous (soak it with some hot water and a bit of lemon juice – no more than half of a lemon if you use a fresh one)
500 g sieved tomatoes (or a can of skinned tomatoes if you prefer less sauce)
2 or 3 (depending on the size) red bell peppers
1 can of corn (285 g)
2 small cans of kidney beans (510 g)
Some oil for the pan (we often use rapeseed oil)

Chili seasoning (adjust to your own liking!):
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika spice
2 teaspoons of cumin (this spice should be the dominant one in the mix)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of piment
1 teaspoon of cocoa powder*
1 flat teaspoon of cinnamon (you shouldn’t be able to taste or smell the cinnamon in the finished dish!)
1 teaspoon of honey
chili powder / ground chili (We have a ton of chili plants and make the ground chili powder ourselves, so we always just use this for seasoning. Obviously, I am not going to tell you how much to use because this is very much down to your preference!)
salt and pepper to your liking

Put the couscous into a bowl. Boil some water and pour it into the bowl together with the lemon juice. The water should be about 1.5 cm (an inch wide) above the couscous. Stir the couscous, then put a lid on top (we usually put a small dish there).

Open the cans with the kidney beans and the corn and pour them into a sieve. Let them drain. Put the spices you need on the counter (because, if you’re like me, your spice rack is pure chaos and it’ll take a few minutes just to find the piment… :p). Slice the bell peppers into pieces. Then pour some oil into a pot and add the bell peppers. Stir them regularly and don’t let the pot get too hot! After a couple of minutes, add the kidney beans and the corn. Again, stir everything regularly and let it cook for a couple more minutes. Then add the sieved tomatoes.

Now add the spices. Don’t forget to taste the result! Since you’ll add the couscous in the end, the seasoning can be a bit heavier now than you’d usually prefer. Also, as is the case with our own ground chili: Let it sink in for a few more minutes and then taste it again. It may be that you don’t taste the chili at all and are eager to add more only to then, after a few minutes, realize that it burns like hell! That is why we add the spices at this step and the couscous last, because otherwise, the couscous may soak in the sauce while you’re waiting for the spices to “spread”.

Once you’re happy with the result, add the couscous. Then do a final tasting. Again, be careful with the chili (it can’t be said often enough… ;) ). Once you’re happy, it can be served.

*Real cocoa. Not the kind mixed with sugar.