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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Post the Fifty-eighth (in which our heroine is feeling rather autumnal)

So, it's that time of year again.  The evenings are drawing in, the mercury is dropping and, depending on whereabouts you live, the bangers are already going off, even though it's still weeks to Halloween.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, winter is nearly upon us.  I've noticed a slightly crazed aspect to several of my aquaintances at the thought of facing into almost four months of rubbish weather and minimal daylight, but I have to be honest, I absolutely love winter.  The crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, the smell of wood or turf fires burning, the absolute crispness of the air on a frosty morning.  Plus, you get to wrap up in layers and layers of snuggly clothing and light candles at 6pm.  And then there's the food.  Soups, stews, casseroles, bourgignons - what's not to love?

The only issue I really have with the transition from autumn to winter is bloody Daylight Savings Time.  Someone is definitely having a giant laugh at our expense there.  It's already been getting darker in the mornings for weeks now; you're just getting used to the bloody fact, and then they go and put the clocks back so it's bright again when you're getting up, but only for about three or four weeks - just enough time to get used to bright mornings again, before winter proper hits and it's still pitch black at 8am and your circadian rhythms are officially all over the place.  No wonder so many Irish people suffer from SAD, our body clocks are all going "Ah jaysis, will you just make your feckin' mind up already?"

So, before we get into the winter cooking repertoire of comfort food, here's what will more than likely be the last of my more summery dishes.  Like my last recipe, this has a lot of Moroccan-inspired flavours - I was obviously feeling under a Moorish influence recently.  Actually, Moroccan/North African flavours can be a great warming choice for winter - I just tend not to want to eat as many salads and the like as accompaniments once the weather turns that bit cooler.

Harissa Chicken Flatbreads with Coriander-Lemon CousCous - serves 4

4 chicken fillets                             2 tbs harissa
Juice & zest of 1 lemon                 2 tbs olive oil
400g couscous                               Bunch fresh coriander, chopped
4 flour tortillas                               Salt & pepper

1. In a non-metallic bowl whisk together your harissa, lemon juice and olive oil.  Butterfly your chicken fillets and add them to the marinade, tossing to coat thoroughly.  Cover and pop into the fridge for at least an hour, but the longer the better.  Turn them every so often to make sure they're marinating evenly.

2. Heat a heavy pan (or better again, a griddle) and cook your fillets on a high heat for 5 minutes on each side so that you get a nice, blackened crust.  Turn the heat down and cook through, turning once more.  Cut or shred each fillet into four or five rough pieces and rest on a warm plate.

3. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the couscous - pour boiling water over the couscous in a large bowl to cover by a depth of about an inch.  Cover with clingfilm and leave aside for the water to absorb.  After about 5 minutes, fluff up with a fork.  If there's still a bit of water in it, recover and give it another few minutes.  Once all the water is absorbed, fluff again, stir in the lemon zest and coriander and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

4. Heat your tortillas and scatter over the chicken.  As you can see, I've added spinach & onions and the cottage cheese dressing from my steak recipe here.  It would also work very well with feta cheese or even just yoghurt.

5. Serve with the couscous, extra salad and maybe some extra lemon wedges for squeezing.


  1. I don't have harissa. can I switch sriracha for harissa? or a mixture of sriracha and tandoori?

  2. Sriracha is going to be a bit too tangy because of the vinegar, Terry. You want more of a smoky, earthy aspect. Harissa is actually dead easy to make, just soak about 10 dried red chillis in hot water for about half an hour, pull off the stems then whizz them in a food processor with a half tsp of salt & 2 tbs olive oil. Add a tsp each of ground caraway & coriander and half a tsp of cumin, and whizz again.