I am using pumpkin alot lately, I know. They’re in season, so I like to make the most of them. I love everything about them, the way they look and taste, their bright orange colour, I (clearly) just can’t get enough. I love just having them on my kitchen windsill, brightening the place up. Yes, sad, I know.

I try to bring a homemade lunch to work every day but, lately, I’ve been lax. I find the change in seasons breaks my routine, which is no bad thing, but it’s time to get my house in order again. Often, it’s leftovers from dinner the night before but, sometimes, I make something especially for lunch as the repetition can get tedious.

Anna Pickard recently made a suggested dish of mine in her “Out of my box” post on the Word of Mouth blog, and I laughed so hard at her description of it, as it’s so true of how I eat in November:

The rest was dedicated to Niamheen and her
Rice and Chorizo and Squash thing. I’m sure the proper term is not ‘thing’, but it was very yummy. And possibly the most filling thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Seriously, it was like eating insulation. But in a good way.

It’s the perfect description, and really, it’s amazing that I am not shaped like a ball. I think that I eat this way, as, when I was vegetarian (for 11 years), I was extremely conscious of nutrition and ensuring that I had a balanced diet that I often mixed grains, pulses and veg. I still do, only now I stick meat in also.

So, I thought that I might attempt a lighter, lunch friendly version without the chorizo. Israeli couscous is great, larger than normal couscous and more tender, like eating little rubber balls, even though that doesn’t sound remotely appetising, it is! You can get it in the kosher section of supermarkets or middle eastern shops usually. If you can’t get any, you could replace with cracked wheat, bulgar or brown rice. I like to add a contrast, usually seeds or nuts, and lots of flavour as it’s quite bland, so some spices, in this instance spanish paprika. I cooked off a batch of haricot beans at the weekend so have had them every day this week (can’t look at one for at least a month now), so I included these, but other white beans will do well here, cannelini or butter beans, for example. Also, the onion squash is not absolutely necessary, any pumpkin/squash would fit. Eats well hot or cold.

The quantities are a bit vague, as I was using left over bits of squash and handfuls of this and that, use this just as a guide and add more of whatever you prefer, I might add more beans if I was making it again. but then, we are heading into insulation territory…

Ingredients:

1 shallot, finely chopped
100g Israeli couscous
a handful of diced, peeled onion squash
a handful of cooked haricot beans or half a tin of drained haricot beans
1 tsp spanish paprika
a handful of pumpkin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
Nice extra virgin olive oil

Method:

Cook the Israeli couscous according to packet instructions and keep to the side.
Sauté the shallot in some oil for a couple of minutes over a medium heat, add the squash/pumpkin and cook for 5 minutes or so until tender, stirring frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Add the paprika and the beans and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the cooked couscous and the sage and stir until warmed through and the flavours mingle.
Season with S&P and add a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil.
Toast the pumpkin seeds in a hot dry frying pan until they start to pop. They should be inflated and nice and crispy. This doesn’t take very long, only a minute or so.
Season with the chilli powder, S&P.
Serve the couscous with the sunflower seeds stirred through, reserving some extra for a garnish.

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Niamh

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