My mum introduced me to this salad a few Christmases ago. My extended family has a habit of forgetting I’m vegetarian – admittedly because I usually forget to remind them – but, whatever the reason, when everyone else is enjoying crazy amounts of fresh seafood I’m either stuck with whatever salad is served on the side or waiting for vegetables when the roast comes out. (Useful tip for newer veggos: food availability at things where people have forgotten you don’t eat meat gets better as the meal progresses, climaxing at dessert).
I have no idea where she found this, but in doing so she achieved two amazing things at once. One, she gave me something hearty to eat two or three serves of at Christmas and still leave room for pav, and two, she introduced me to Israeli couscous.
For the uninitiated, as I was, Israeli couscous is little round pasta (the packaging lies, it’s not actually couscous) that’s roasted so that it remains uniquely al dente and chewy in texture. It’s also low GI – everyone wins! You can usually find it in either the pasta/asian food aisle of the supermarket or, as my local supermarket did for reasons known only to themselves, next to the bread. Like other small pasta like orzo or ziti you can make great little starchy side-dishes with it, use it instead of rice, quinoa, or couscous as under saucier dishes or, like here, use it to bulk up other dishes like salads, soups or stews.
I love the chewiness of Israeli couscous, and it works really well with the contrasting textures in this salad.
Roast vegetable Israeli couscous salad
- 1 large beetroot (or 2 smaller ones)
- 2 parsnips
- 1 swede
- 1 red onion
- 1 eggplant
- 2 zucchinis
- ¼ red cabbage
- 5 mushrooms
- 200g fresh spinach
- 400g can chickpeas
- 250g Israeli couscous
- Olive oil for roasting
- Mixed herbs
- 1 tsp garlic paste or 2-3 cloves fresh garlic (peeled)
- Pre-heat oven to 200˚C
- Largely dice beetroot, parsnips, swede, onion, eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms. All of these veggies are going to be roasted together so be aware when chopping that things like the beetroot and swede should be diced smaller and the mushrooms and zucchini should be bigger (case in point, most of my mushrooms were halved) to ensure relatively even cooking time. Alternately you can put your quicker to roast things in at a later point to your longer to roast items, but I’m lazy and prefer to organize it so it all works in the one pan.
- Place all veggies in roasting pan, drizzle liberally with olive oil, drop in your garlic and add a tablespoon or so of mixed herbs. Mix well and place in oven.
Tip: Cover with aluminum foil for the first stage of roasting – it keeps heat in but won’t burn the tops of things like your onions. Take it off for the last 5-10 minutes to let everything crisp up.
- While your veggies are roasting shred your cabbage, wash and dry your spinach, drain and rinse your chickpeas and set aside.
- Add couscous to boiling water to cook – stir it fairly regularly because it has a tendency to clump together, which I quite like because I’m a carbophile, but for this salad you want to keep it all fairly separate. It usually takes about 10 minutes to cook but don’t stress too much about overcooking because it’s really forgiving and doesn’t tend to get waterlogged like pasta does it you don’t pull it out and chill it at the right time. Once cooked, set aside.
- Wait for your veggies to finish roasting, check them every now and then to turn, nibble and generally check they’re doing ok. I used this time to make the quinoa patties.
- When your roast vegetables are done mix together with your set aside ingredients: the couscous, chickpeas, spinach, and cabbage
- My mum originally did this with mustard seeds instead of mixed herbs and that worked a treat
- Obviously the vegetables can be swapped and changed as you like. I wouldn’t recommend things like potatoes but pumpkin, capsicum, corn, green beans, carrots… get inventive or use whatever you have on hand!
- This version doesn’t have a dressing but if I was going to I’d think a mustard dressing or a balsamic vinegar-based dressing would be your best bet
This salad is great not only for Christmases when there’s prawns from one end of the table to the other but I’m also loving it for work lunches. There’s something about having a purple plate that makes people pause and ask what you’re eating. I served it with quinoa patties to make a full meal, though arguably there’s so much bulk in this salad it’s a meal in itself.