This recipe is inspired by the traditional recipe for Tfaya, a Moroccan recipe for a caramelised onion sauce. We use it as a dressing for a couscous salad with lots of crunchy textures. You can use whatever nuts and seeds you might have available, but the addition of lightly crushed cumin and coriander seeds adds big bursts of flavour as well as a pleasing crunch.
For the onions:
30g unsalted butter (or oil)
2 medium white onions, peeled and finely sliced
20ml honey (or agave)
½tsp ground cinnamon
¼tsp ground ginger
¼tsp ground turmeric
For the couscous:
175ml salted, boiling water
175g Barley Couscous
250g green beans, stalks removed
3 medium to large carrots
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
2tbsp pumpkin seeds
1tbsp pine nuts
1tbsp sesame seeds
Small bunch of mint, parsley and coriander (approx. 20g), leaves picked and roughly torn
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of half
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the onions, use a medium to large, wide-based pan with a tight fitting lid (a frying or saute pan works well). Place on a medium heat, add the butter and when melted, add the onions, stir to coat and cook for 2 minutes.
Now add the remaining ingredients and turn up the heat so that it simmers. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat to a gentle bubble and cook for 25 minutes. Check every now and again to make sure the heat is not too high and the onions are not sticking or burning. The onions should be soft and there should be some liquid left. Remove the lid and cook for another 2-3 minutes so that most of the liquid evaporates – it should not be too syrupy, nor too wet. Set aside until ready to use.
Place a large pan of salted water on a high heat. While waiting for this to boil, place the Couscous in a bowl, season with a good few pinches of salt and stir through the Olive Oil so that it coats the grains. Pour over the boiling water then cover with a lid and set a timer for 5 minutes. Take the lid off and use a fork to break up the Couscous into individual grains and set aside.
When the pan of water is boiling, add the green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the pan and place in a bowl of cold water to refresh and prevent the cooking. When cool, remove the beans and cut into thirds.
After the beans have cooked, add the carrots and cook at a gently boil for 10-12 minutes, then drain and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, trim the top of the carrot off then cut into bite-sized chunks.
When the carrots are cooking, place a frying pan on a medium to high heat and add the coriander and cumin seeds. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until they smell fragrant. Tip into a bowl then return the pan to the heat and reduce the heat to medium. Add the nuts and seeds and toast for around 5-8 minutes, or until they are beginning to colour and crisp, then remove from the heat. Roughly crush the spices with a pestle and mortar or with the flat part of a knife on a chopping board. Return to the bowl and mix with the nuts.
When ready to serve, combine the carrots and green beans in a salad bowl, add the onion mixture and lemon juice and stir so that it coats the vegetables. Add in the Couscous, lemon zest, herbs and the nuts and seed mixture and toss well so that everything mixes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed, then serve.