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North African chicken and couscous salad

Recipe from: 22 December 2010

Ingredients 48
Servings 8
Time 20 mins


  • For the chicken and stock:
  • 1
    large free-range chicken, trimmed of all excess fat
  • salt
  • 1
    carrot, thickly sliced
  • 1
    stick of celery, sliced
  • 6
    parsley stalks (reserve the leaves)
  • 10
  • 2
    bay leaves
  • 3
    whole cloves
  • 1
    large, unskinned onion, quartered
  • water
  • 1/2
  • 2
    cloves garlic, peeled
  • For the spice paste:
  • 15
    cumin seeds
  • 10
    coriander seeds
  • 5
    flaky sea salt
  • 5
    black peppercorns
  • 4
    fat cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1
    large red chilli, chopped, or 2 tsp (10 ml) chilli flakes (to taste)
  • finely grated zest of a large lemon
  • 7.5
    ground cinnamon
  • 90
    olive oil
  • For the salad:
  • 2
    large, shining aubergines (see Cooks' Notes, below)
  • olive oil (see recipe)
  • salt
  • 600
    ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 500
    couscous (see Cooks' Notes, below)
  • 1
    punnet snow peas, sliced
  • 12
    Turkish apricots, coarsley chopped
  • 250
    pitted green olives
  • 1
    tin of chickpeas, drained
  • bunch of fresh coriander
  • bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • For the dressing:
  • juice of a large lemon
  • juice of an orange
  • 7.5
    ground cumin
  • 7.5
    sweet paprika
  • 2.5
    chilli powder (or more, to taste)
  • 10
    dried mint
  • 5
    finely grated lemon zest
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • To top:
  • extra parsley and coriander
  • 100
    slivered almonds, lightly toasted until golden brown
  • a little powdered cumin and paprika


Preheat the oven to 160º C. (If your oven is not fan-assisted, preheat it to 170º C.)

First make the spice paste. Heat a frying pan and toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Place them with the salt and peppercorns in a mortar and grind to a powder (or put them through a spice- or coffee- grinder). Now add the garlic cloves and the chilli and pound to a paste. Stir in the lemon zest, cinnamon and olive oil.

Put the chicken into a large, deep roasting pan. Take one heaped tablespoon of the spice paste and, using a spoon, smear it inside the chicken. Put the carrot, parsley stalks, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and onion into the pan. Fill the pan with water to a depth of two centimetres -  or deep enough so that the water just touches the tip of the pope's nose. Make sure that the water level is well below the open cavity of the chicken, so that the stock doesn't flood into the chicken during cooking and wash out the spice paste.

Take another tablespoon of the spice paste and, using your hands, smear it all over the skin of the chicken, extending it down to a centimetre above the water line. Squeeze the half-lemon all over the top of the chicken, then push the squeezed-out half into the cavity, along with the two garlic cloves.

Set aside while you prepare the aubergines. Remove the stalks and cut them into neat 3-cm chunks. Place these on a separate baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Now add a heaped tablespoon of the spice paste and, using your hands, toss well to coat. Season with salt. Place the chicken in the oven, on the top shelf, and the baking sheet with the aubergines on the lower shelf. Set the timer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, take the aubergines out of the oven and add the cherry tomatoes, mixing together with your hands so the tomatoes are well coated in spicy oil. (Add a little more olive oil if the aubergines seem dry.)

Place the vegetables back in the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are just beginning to collapse, and the aubergines are soft. Remove the vegetables from the oven, cover with foil and set aside.

Continue roasting the chicken for another 35-40 minutes, or until it is cooked through. (Note: the total roasting time for the chicken is 1 hour 20 minutes, for the aubergines 45 minutes, and for the tomatoes 20 minutes.)

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover the dish and allow to sit until cool enough to handle. Carefully lift the chicken from the stock, making sure not to spill any of the cavity juices into the stock. Put the chicken into a large shallow dish and tilt it so that the juices run out. Cut off the breasts, with their skin, and slice into neat pieces. Pull away all the remaining chicken flesh and tear into bite-size pieces. Discard the bones, fat and non-crispy skin (or keep for making stock). Turn all the chicken pieces over in the juices, cover, and set aside to marinate while you finish making the salad.

Strain the stock left in the roasting pan into a bowl and leave to settle. Discard all the stock vegetables and flavorings. Skim any excess fat off the top of the stock. Measure the stock into a bowl, adding enough hot water to bring the quantity up to 4 cups (1 litre) in total.

Place the dry couscous in a very large mixing bowl and pour in 800 ml of the warm stock. Do not stir. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. After this time, taste a grain of couscous. If it's at all gritty in texture, add a little more warm stock, and leave to stand for another ten minutes. Using a fork, fluff up the couscous to separate the grains. (See Cook's Notes, below).

In the meantime, make the dressing. Place the remaining spice paste into a bowl, add all the remaining dressing ingredients, and whisk well to combine.

Now assemble the salad. Put a quarter of the aubergines, tomatoes, chickpeas, snow peas, olives and apricots to one side, for topping the salad. Gently mix the remaining three-quarters into the couscous. Pour three-quarters of the dressing over the salad, add the coriander and parsley and toss very thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary (this salad needs more salt than you would think).

Tip the couscous salad onto a very large platter, letting it fall into a loose volcano shape. Scatter the reserved aubergines, tomatoes, chickpeas, olives and apricots over the top. Pile the chicken pieces around the edges of of the dish.  Drizzle the remaining dressing all over the couscous and chicken. Scatter the toasted almonds, and some more coriander and parsley, all over the salad, and dust generously with cumin and paprika. Serve immediately.

Serves eight.

Cooks' Notes
  • You can salt the aubergines to remove any bitterness if you like, but I don't find this necessary when using young, fresh aubergines.
  • I always make couscous using warm (not boiling) stock, and I never cook it or steam it, but if you're not confident about this method, follow the instructions on the packet, using the stock you've made instead of water. The amount of liquid that your couscous will absorb depends on the brand you're using. If you find you've added too much liquid, drain the couscous in a large sieve for a few minutes.
Reprinted with permission of Scrumptious South Africa.
To visit Scrumptious South Africa's blog, click here.


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