Inspiring Dinner Party Solutions: Delicious Roast Chicken Couscous with Fresh Herbs and Pomegranate

Introducing Part 1 of my ‘Inspiring Dinner Party Solutions’; Delicious Roast Chicken Couscous with Fresh Herbs and Pomegranate♥ I feel compelled to introduce this mini series of simple yet impressive dishes after a succession of dinner party blunders last weekend! I was throwing a reunion dinner for four of my oldest and dearest friends from school, girls that would have been entirely satisfied with no food whatsoever as long as the wine and bubbly flowed from the kitchen like the source of the Rio Grande! In an effort to test my culinary ability, I choose delectable yet laborious dishes that contained too many elements and demanded far too much time and precision. Most of the day was spent toiling in the kitchen rolling pasta to a wafer thin consistency and whipping egg whites into stiff white peaks while still making tea and conversations! I was frazzled from beginning to end; not good if you’re the host.

I’m hoping to conspire against traditional dinner party tedium and create recipes that are simple and impressive, clean and brilliant and most importantly; won’t give the chef an aneurism before service! My Delicious Roast Chicken Couscous with Fresh Herbs and Pomegranate is versatile, may be served as a starter or a main, is full of flavor and texture, tastes sweet and exotic, and most importantly, is quick to prepare. It is guaranteed to satisfy the family, impress the guests and not retain the chef in the kitchen for anymore then 40 minutes!

If you’ve never tried couscous before then I highly recommend trying this recipe. Couscous is made of crushed durum wheat semolina and is among the healthiest grain-based products in the world. Originally found in North Africa, it is a staple food throughout AlgeriaMorocco and Tunisia and is fast becoming a popular alternative to pasta and rice in Western Europe. Its quick to prepare and extremely versatile, lending itself well to savory and sweet ingredients. The infusion of pomegranate juice and seeds in this recipe cut through the eastern spices with a sweet explosion, which compliment the fresh mint, parsley and coriander beautifully.

Couscous its a nutritious grain, containing twice as much riboflavinniacinvitamin B6, and folate as pasta and four times as much thiamine and pantothenic acid. Unfortunately it has a relatively high Glycemic load compared to quinoa and brown basmati rice, but by adding walnuts to the recipe I have actually reduce the GI of the entire dish; very clever!
My new kitchen etiquette demands food that is simple and its preparation fast, this dish covers both; Dig in folk’s xx
 

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray
Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray
Prep/cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4

 Delicious Roast Chicken Couscous with Fresh Herbs and Pomegranate

Ingredients

Preparation
  1. Dry fry the coriander, cumin and peppercorn in a pan for 2 minutes or until toasted.
  2. Place in a pestle and mortar and grind to release the flavours.
  3. Add the ground seeds to the olive oil and lemon juice, season with a good pinch of salt.
  4. Rub the marinade all over the chicken breasts and leave to rest in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  6. Meanwhile, put the couscous in a bowl and pour over the hot stock. After 10 minutes or when the stock is fully absorbs, fluff up the couscous and leave to cool.
  7. Place the chicken in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  8. When the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and slice.
  9. Drizzle any remaining cooking juice from the roasting tin and onto the couscous and pile the chicken on top.
  10. Add the walnuts and mixed herbs.
  11. Half the pomegranate and squeeze the juice and the seeds onto the couscous
  12. drizzle with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and serve.

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Food to make you happy, Part 2: Miso Mackerel with a Warm Spicy Aubergine Salad

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My last post was the first of a three-part mini series looking at the physiological phenomena that is stress’, and what wonderous and vile things it does to the body. In my last entry I hoped to explained the cause and effect of negative emotion, what physically happens to the human body when we react badly to an adverse situation, and what foods can be eaten to help restore and create a balance. The message is simple and honest; health and well-being can be achieved by eliminating certain foods from our diet and replacing them with better ones; by eating natural, unrefined, unprocessed whole foods, we can actually support every system in the body, helping it to function optimally and relieve symptoms of stress and ill-health.

So it’s all about choosing foods that keep us calm and happy and avoiding the ones that and deplete us. My gorgeous Baked French Toast from the previous post is a great example of stress fighting food. It’s made with a multi grain loaf containing millet, linseed and rye which help to slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream, keeping our stress levels in check.

Another fantastic alternative to artificial sweetener and one of my new favourite ingredients in the whole wide world is agave syrup. It has a low Gi, preventing the usual psychosis induced by refined sugars AND it can help to keep our waist a healthy width.

I used it generously in my previous post to sweeten my Warm Raspberry Compote and Seed and Nut Brittle, I actually ended up adding it to last nights mashed potatoes and afterwards smothering the free range chicken with it before throwing it into the oven! It’s just so damn versatile….

In this post I want to introduce some more new and exciting ingredients that will help stave off stress while adding new dimension to your culinary repertoire. The main ingredient in this recipe is one of our most significant superfoods, caught and sold in Ireland, and available to buy in most fishmongers for about a euro; Fresh Irish mackerel. I picked mine up this morning in The Market, in Beshoffs of Howth. This is a great little eatery, they have really fresh produce and are always extremely helpful!

The nutritional benefits of eating mackerel are enormous; it prevents cardiovascular disease, strengthens the immune system, improves organ function and regulates metabolism. It’s our number one source of Omega-3 fatty acids, also found in flax and sunflower seeds. This Essential Fatty Acid improves the functioning of the nervous system, regulates hormonal imbalances such as PMT, relieves attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, even depression!

This wonderous fish also contains large quantities of Magnesium; 85mg, in every 100g of mackerel, this mineral is an EFA helper which means that it improves the absorption of omega-3 fatty acid into the system. Magnesium is also essential for energy production and hormonal regulation and is widely prescribed as a supplement to individuals with depression and insomnia.

I’m serving my mackerel with a Warm Spicy Aubergine Salad, a side dish that goes beautifully with oily fish. Aubergine is now in season and available to buy in farmers markets all over the country. They are a great source of B-complex vitamins and contain lots of dietary fiber which is essential for healthy digestion. They also contain many minerals such as manganese, copper, iron and potassium as well as phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid which protect us against free radicals.

I’m using two variety of aubergine in my dish; ‘black beauty’ have a smooth, dark, glossy skin and are widely available in supermarkets all over the country. The second variety is not so common but can be found in farmers markets nationwide; they are sometimes refered to as the ‘graffiti’ aubergine and are smaller than their contemporaries with a wider base and pinky purple skin streaked with white, really pretty and really tasty.

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray
Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray
Prep/cooking time: 90 minutes
Serves: 4

♥ Warm Spiced Aubergine Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 large aubergines
  • 50ml rapeseed oil
  • 1 chilli, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 4 cloves of garlic peels and finely chopped
  • 3cm cube of ginger, grated
  • 100ml rice wine vinegar
  • 100ml mirin
  • 3 tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • handful of coriander, chopped
  • 4 spring onions chopped

Preparation

  1. Cut the aubergine into 2cm cubes and sprinkle generously with salt.
  2. Double over some kitchen towel and lay the salted aubergine on top, leave for 20 minutes.
  3. Pre heat the oven to 200C
  4. Remove all the moisture from the aubergine, place in a large baking dish, then toss in 25ml of rapeseed oil.
  5. Roast in a pre heated oven for 40 minutes. Give them a good mix every 10/15 minutes to ensure they dont burn.
  6. Heat the remaining rapeseed oil on a low heat in a large frying pan and add the ginger, chilli, garlic and fennel. fry for 5 minutes ensuring they don’t burn.
  7. Add the roasted aubergine to the pan and mix well.
  8. Combine the mirin, vinegar, soya and seseame into  a little bowl, mix and add to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. Serve with some chopped coriander and spring onion.
 
♥ Grilled Miso Mackerel
 Ingredients
  • 4 whole mackerel, gutted, do not cut off the head and tail
  • 3 tbsp of miso paste
  • 100ml of mirin
  • 2 tbsp of agave syrup

Preparation

  1. Using a sharp knife, score the mackerel and both sides, .5cm deep should do it.
  2. Heat the mirin in a small frying pan, when it starts to boil, turn down the heat and add the agave syrup, mix well.
  3. Gently whisk in the miso paste and allow the marinade to cool down to room temperature.
  4. Next, rub the fish inside and out with the marinade, and leave to sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Once the fish is infused with the flavours from the marinade, pre heat the grill to the maximum temperature. This dish requires the grill to be piping hot!
  6. Place the fish under the grill for 3 minutes, turn and do the other side for another 3 minutes until the skin is charred.
  7. Remove from the grill and serve with the Warm Spiced Aubergine Salad.

TIP: Things to look out for when buying fresh mackerel; the eyes should appear bright and clear and the gills should be clean. Fresh mackerel will also have moist, translucent flesh. If in doubt, ask your fishmonger, failing that; use your nose! When you get home, remove the fish from the bag, wash under cold water and place on a plate. Cover with foil and refrigerate in the coldest part until your ready to cook it!

TIP 2: I used Clearspring Organic Japanese Brown Rice Miso, Clearspring Japanese Rice Mirin and Clearspring Japanese Toasted Sesame Oil. Probably because I spend far too much time in health food shops but mainly because it’s as close to nature as your going to get. They use the highest quality ingredients that have gone through minimal processing to ensure great tasting products. I highly recommend them BUT there are plenty of very suitable alternatives that can be picked up in any supermarket so feel free to substitute any of the above with whatever is handy!

As always, enjoy enjoy enjoy x

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