Small Plates: Pumpkin with Ras el Hanout, Summer Couscous, Spicy Chickpeas, Fried Egg

Small Plates: Pumpkin with Ras el Hanout, Summer Couscous, Spicy Chickpeas, Fried Egg

When Summer Meets Autumn

I’m ready. After the most wonderful Summer in my memory, I’m ready for the cooler temperatures, dark evenings and all of the delights Autumn brings. I often find this a difficult time of year – we rarely have a good Summer and it can seem the evenings are closing in far too quick. This year is different. Before the cosy nights in with a hearty stew and plenty of wine however, we have this glorious little period of time to take advantage of. A bout of heavy snow in Spring delayed most of the sowing in Ireland this year and consequently the Summer vegetables are knocking around later than usual. Our unusually hot Summer has also meant that Autumn’s best has come on much quicker giving us a magnificent overlap in produce. I am loving it.

These are a few simple dishes, perfect for when Summer meets Autumn.

Summer Couscous, Pumpkin with Ras el Hanout, Spicy Chickpeas, Crispy Fried Egg

Serves 4

For the Couscous:
200g Couscous
6 Medjool Dates (pitted and finely chopped)
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A squeeze of Lemon
10 Cherry Tomatoes (quartered)
A bunch of Parsley (finely chopped)
1/2 Pomegranite (seeds only)
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

For the Pumpkin:
1 Medium Pumpkin
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Ras el Hanout
Sea Salt

For the Chickpeas:
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion (finely sliced)
A pinch of Chilli Flakes
1 tsp of Hot Paprika
2 cloves of Garlic (finely sliced)
1 400g Tin of Chickpeas
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

For the Egg:
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Free Range Egg (per person)
A drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar (per person)
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

First prepare the couscous: put the couscous into a bowl with the dates and a good pinch of salt. Mix well before pouring in enough boiling water to cover. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for five minutes. Remove the cling film and add the olive oil and lemon. Mix well with a fork and allow to come to room temperature before tossing through the tomatoes, parsley and pomegranate seeds. Check for seasoning.

Scrub the outside of the pumpkin before cutting in half vertically (through the stem). Scoop out the seeds and cut the pumpkin into wedges. Mix together the ras el hanout and oil before rubbing it all over the pumpkin wedges. Arrange on a baking tray, sprinkle liberally with salt and roast in a 240 degree conventional oven for 35-45 minutes. The top should char a little with the inside becoming beautifully tender. If a fan oven is your only option, cook it at 180 degrees and check on it after 35 minutes. If it’s not done, check every five minutes or so.

Meanwhile prepare the chickpeas: Put the oil into a frying pan over a medium heat and when hot add the onion. Immediately add the chilli flakes, paprika and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 20-25 minutes stirring regularly until the onion is meltingly tender. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the chickpeas (juice and all) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium and simmer the chickpeas until the liquid has almost entirely evaporated. Check for seasoning before removing from the heat and stirring in the balsamic vinegar.

Just before serving fry the eggs. Add the oil to a frying pan over a medium heat and when hot break in the eggs, being careful of the oil spitting. Cook until the whites have set but the yolk is still runny. I like the heat to be slightly too high so that the bottom of the egg crisps up. This can take practice though as there is a fine line between crispy and burnt!

You can assemble the elements on individual plates or arrange them in bowls in the middle of the table and allow people to help themselves.



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