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A Particularly Awesome Cupboard Surprise

March 28, 2010

 I have a Cupboard Surprise “recipe” I use at least once a week that goes a bit like this: Carb Food (pasta, rice, cous cous, potatoes etc – occasionally quinoa if I feel a bit Gillian McKeith) cooked as appropriate – usually boiled.

Whatever veg happens to be left in the fridge, chopped up and put on a tray, covered in oil and a handful of herbs, and roasted in the oven for about 20-30 minutes.

 Protein Food (canned chickpeas, haloomi cheese, nuts, butter beans…), either cooked on the tray with the veg, or just chucked in separately at the end. Then you mix it all together and eat it.

 The joy of any cupboard surprise is that it’s different pretty much every time you do it – it’s difficult to come up with anything truly inedible using the formula above (although a little judgement is required if you’re expecting to feed other people – I wouldn’t recommend attempting to roast beansprout, or mange tout, for example…). Every so often, however, you do come up with a combination that’s particularly amazing. This accidental stumbling on culinary gold is what I love about recipe-free cooking – one day it’s as if all the leftovers in your kitchen magically align like the planets and something truly memorable occurs. In which case – write down what you did so you can experience it again. Make sure you get the formula out next time you need to feed someone you want to impress. And let me know so I can give it a go as well. If you’re really geeky, take a photo too.

 I shouldn’t be surprised that the combination of ingredients I’m about to give you resulted in yumminess – it pretty much combined all my favourite foods in one dish: cous cous, roast garlic, tomatoes, cashew nuts, butternut squash (I’d also consider adding a bit of haloomi cheese in future, for a more “meaty” omnivore-converting texture – pine nuts might be nice too).

This recipe is also simple enough even for real kitchen-phobics – who admittedly probably don’t wander around the internet reading cookery blogs – but you could always pass it on… Cous cous is a food I reckon all non-cooks ought to start with – basically because the method for making it is almost exactly the same as that you use for Pot noodle: cous cous in bowl, boil kettle, add water, wait (most people add fat, such as butter or oil, and salt or a stock cube, but it’s not absolutely essential).

The only real pain in the arse ingredient here is the butternut squash – the first time you take one of these home it feels a bit like you need a password to get into it. The skin is tough, smooth, and the shape impossible to get stable enough to try and cut into – if I ever cut my finger off, it will be trying to chop a butternut squash (or possibly carving a pumpkin). The best thing to do, is to stick the entire squash in the microwave for five minutes, with the skin on. Then leave it to cool down before chopping – this seems to kickstart the cooking process and soften the skin so you can actually make a cut.

Anyway, here’s the recipe in full:

Cook cous cous as described above and leave, covered, to one side whilst you prepare everything else.

 Chop (in fairly chunky pieces): A small butternut squash, a red onion, a few big juicy tomatoes, a yellow pepper. Place these on a baking tray.

 Add some whole cloves of garlic (I used a whole bulb’s worth – don’t worry if you’ve never done this before, they will sweeten in the oven and taste gorgeous whole, not like raw or fried cloves at all).

 Add a few big handfuls of cashew nut pieces. You can, of course, use whole cashews, but like broken biscuits, the broken pieces are much cheaper from Indian grocers – they also cook a bit quicker.

Drizzle lots and lots of olive oil (or groundnut oil if you’re skint) over the veggy-garlic-nut mix.  Add a couple of teaspoons of chilli flakes, a few teaspoons of brown sugar, a generous shake of paprika, and a bit of salt. Now get your hands into the tray and mix everything up so all the veg is well coated in oil and spices.

 Stick the tray in the oven (I use gas mark 6, but it doesn’t really matter as long as you keep an eye on it) for roughly 25 minutes, checking every so often. When it’s cooked the garlic will be light brown, and the nuts should look slightly charred. That’s when you take it out and pour the cooked cous cous into the tray and mix everything together in one delicious mess. Yum.

You can serve this by itself – or with salad, salsa, or pita breads, or anything else you fancy really – it’s also pretty good eaten cold (so makes a great packed lunch for work.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. vicky permalink
    March 28, 2010 19:11

    I’m going to try this as soon as I’m home. I’m pleased to find something to do with roast garlic.

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