Couscous and chickpea salad

25 July 2011 § 3 Comments

I’ve been trying to make more single meals – so no separate kids’ food. But there are some things The Ladies™ still have a bit of a problem with – couscous and chickpeas being two of them – I think it is a texture thing, as they are usually pretty adventurous for four and a half. The larder was bare and we needed dinner, and guess what was in there…yup, a can of chick peas and plenty of couscous.

Before they could start whining that they did not like chickpeas I sent them both out to the garden – one of them to pick the tomatoes and the other to pick basil and mint. We made a quick salad and they were so distracted by the act of gathering ingredients they forgot to complain and ate a decent amount.

Recipe for this quick, vegan salad:

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ red onion finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh basil and mint – finely chopped
  • ½ red pepper seeded and chopped
  • ½ yellow pepper seeded and chopped
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the water in a pan (make sure it has a tight-fitting lid) add the salt and olive oil, when boiling add the couscous. Stir well. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Then fluff with a fork so the couscous is light and does not stick together.

In a bowl mix the couscous and all the vegetables and herbs.

Make the salad dressing by whisking the oil into the vinegar. Taste and season.

Pour the dressing onto the salad and make sure it is evenly coated.

Potato-Purslane Salad – weed it and eat it

29 June 2011 § 5 Comments

As weeds go, Purslane is one of the most interesting. It has a number of aliases –  pigweed (my favorite -naturally), hogweed, Verdolaga in Spanish and pusley.

In terms of nutritional value, it packs a mean punch: protein, vitamin E, vitamin C, and the best source of Omega 3 fatty acids of any leafy plant. And (file under: Great News for Vegans,) it is loaded with the heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is typically found in cold-water fatty fish such as wild salmon, anchovies, sardines and mackerel.

I was surprised that something so beneficial actually tasted so good. Unlike say, wheatgrass which is basically inedible unless mixed with gin. It tastes a bit like watercress albeit less peppery and more lemony. In terms of usage, it is widely eaten in parts of Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and Asia. The Greeks may not be able to run an economy but they know how good this green is. It is commonly used there and believed to have medicinal qualities. Here however, it is generally ignored. Maybe re-branding it McPurslane would help….

When I bought it from the Farmers’ Market last week, I was told that like okra, it turns mucilaginous when cooked. Obviously, I nodded and then rushed home to look up the word. It means it turns gummy and gooey when cooked.

This vegan potato salad recipe is a perfect summer side dish and it is so tasty, that we actually had ours as a main. The zest in the dressing makes it positively lemonicious and the herbs took me back to the Greek island of Levkas.

Keen students of photography will note that there are no red onions in the photo. I forgot about them and left them soaking while I took the picture, but they are definitely worth adding as they add a crisp, extra bite to the salad. Just remember to soak the red onion first in iced water to reduce the onion aftertaste.

Potato-Purslane Salad


  • Enough fingerlings potatoes for 2 – quantity determined by your appetite
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • About 1 cup purslane, thoroughly washed, torn or chopped (stems are tangier than leaves)
  • ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp olives
  • A handful of olives
  • 1 large tomato, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup fresh herbs – mint and oregano (or any herbs you have – parsley or chervil would work)

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and then add the salt and potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes until tender. Drain thoroughly, leave to air dry and then pour into a serving bowl.

Add the olive oil to the lemon juice, zest and vinegar, whisking until well emulsified, taste and season and then pour over potatoes.

Add all the other ingredients, mix and season with salt and pepper.

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