Introduction: Oven-Baked Couscous

I like couscous, but feel it is too hard to prepare: standing there with a fork fluffing it up? Who's got time or strength for that?

Rather than adding liquid to the dry couscous and mixing it, this recipe just pours the liquid over the top and leaves it in a warm oven. I was pleasantly surprised by how light the meal turned out. The ingredients list was simple enough and it was quick, cheap, easy and tasty.

Step 1: Ingredients

I slightly changed the ingredients from the originally published recipe as I didn't want to waste the juice from one of the lemons and didn't have any parsley to hand.

I slightly changed the construction of the dish because I wanted to do the washing up while the casserole was in the oven, so didn't reserve some ingredients for pre-serve garnish.

2 tablespoons olive oil
140g (5oz) wholemeal couscous
450g (1lb) skinless chicken fillets
2 onions
A handful of garlic cloves
2 lemons
350ml (12floz) chicken stock
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
12 dates
50g (2oz) almonds

I had some home-made chicken stock in the freezer, but shop-bought or a stock-cube should be fine (albeit saltier)

You will also need:-

A chopping board
A knife
A way of squeezing lemons
A large saucepan
An oven-proof dish or casserole
Aluminium foil

To start, preheat the oven to 180C (360F) or 160C (320F) if it's a fan oven.

Step 2: Zest and Juice the Lemons

Lacking a lemon zester, I use a potato peeler to take thin strips off the outside of the fruit. Cut these as thinly as possible so that you take just the outside layer of the peel and leave the bitter white stuff behind.

Then chop it finely. Since I wasn't keeping some of the zest for pre-serve garnish, I just chucked it all in the pressed juice.

Step 3: Sliver the Alium

Which is a posh way of saying "thinly slice the garlic and onions."

Step 4: A Date? You're Nuts.

Chop the almonds and chop the dates.

Different ingredients, and different issues. The almonds yielded to the knife easily enough, but after the first cut, it became apparent that chopping the dates was a stickier problem. I switched to a pair of scissors for that, and they did the job.

Step 5: Chicken Stock

The stock I'd made was pretty concentrated, which is good for flavour, but this is the main liquid being added to the couscous, so it had to be diluted to the 350ml volume required. I thawed the stock in the microwave and then added water from the kettle.

Step 6: Browning the Chicken

The thigh fillets were a decent size, so I chopped each of them into four pieces.

Use some oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan and brown the pieces which takes a few minutes.

After they're done, lift them out the saucepan and arrange them on the bottom of an oven-proof dish or casserole.

Step 7: Adding the Couscous

Usually I feel that near enough is good enough, but since the liquid absorption is so crucial to cooking couscous, I measured the required amount.

Then just sprinkle it over the browned chicken in the casserole.

Step 8: Cook the Rest of the Ingredients

Soften the onion and garlic in the second half of the olive oil.

When they are becoming transparent, tip in the spices, dates, lemon juice and zest and stock.

Bring that up to the boil and then pour it over the chicken and couscous.

Scatter the almonds on the surface, then cover tightly with tinfoil.

Put into the oven for 20 minutes.

Step 9: Serve

Out of the oven and ready to dish up.

This was amazingly easy and very tasty. Despite not fluffing the couscous, it was light in texture.

It was noticeable that the softened onions and dates gave quite a sweet taste to the finished dish. I might try adding some powdered ginger or nutmeg next time, to get a real sweetmeat vibe going.

If you decide to try this, please let me know how yours turned out.