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By the Book: Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Couscous with Dried Apricots and Butternut Squash

October 1st 12:10pm, 2013



I’m a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks Jerusalem and Plenty, so I was eager to get my hands on his latest, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. This one contains recipes culled from Ottolenghi’s four London restaurants, with dishes that reflect his upbringing in Jerusalem and incorporate culinary traditions from the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is divided into four sections: vegetables, legumes and grains; meat and fish; baking and patisserie; and larder. Constant among all 140 recipes are fresh ingredients that beget bright, harmonious flavors via preparations doable by the home cook. By the time I finished browsing the book, the pages were cluttered with yellow sticky notes marking tasty-sounding recipes like Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters with Lime Yogurt or Turkey and Corn Meatballs with Roasted Pepper Sauce. Oh, the choices!

When I think about traditional dishes from Ottolenghi’s native Israel, couscous comes to mind. Couscous can be a billowy bed for ingredients savory or sweet – or both, the last being the camp for Ottolenghi’s couscous with dried apricots and butternut squash.




It’s high season for squash. The sweet scent of baked butternut squash is one of my favorite autumn kitchen smells. Butternut squash is a joy to cook with since its bright orange hue barely changes despite the heat that transforms dense flesh into a toothsome softness.




Couscous tastes immensely richer when cooked in chicken or vegetable stock. Using the latter, you can keep this dish vegetarian, but I prefer chicken stock, which lends a silky quality to those tiny pearls of rolled semolina dough. Add the prescribed saffron threads and upgrade to luxe status. I’ve been taught to never, ever uncover couscous after pouring it into boiling water. Just like rice, if you peek, the steam escapes and you don’t get nearly as much fluff.




While butternut squash and chicken stock pack flavor punches, the minor components are what impart such depth of delicate flavor and striking color in this otherwise simple grain dish. There are onion slivers, sweet and mellowed by heat; dried apricots, plump from a hot water bath; the citrus zing of lemon zest; and the lovely green contrast from a handful of fresh herbs. Simple. Straightforward. Delicious. One Ottolenghi recipe down and 139 other tabbed recipes to go.

Couscous with Dried Apricots and Butternut Squash
4 servings

1 large onion, thinly sliced
6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Scant ½ cup dried apricots
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¾-inch dice
1½ cups uncooked couscous
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron threads
3 Tbsp. tarragon, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. mint coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the onion in a large frying pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil and a pinch of salt. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside.
• Meanwhile, pour enough hot water from the tap over the apricots just to cover them. Soak for 5 minutes, then drain and cut into 1/4-inch dice.
• Mix the diced squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Spread the squash out on a baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until lightly colored and quite soft.
• While waiting for the butternut squash, cook the couscous. Bring the stock to a boil with the saffron. Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and pour the boiling stock over it, plus the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for about 10 minutes; all the liquid should be absorbed.
• Use a fork or a whisk to fluff up the couscous, then add the onion, butternut squash, apricots, herb, cinnamon and lemon zest. Mix well with your hands, trying not to mash the butternut squash. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warmish or cold.

You have 24 hours in London. What London restaurant would you eat at and why? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.
And now, we’d like to congratulate Ben, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won a copy of Russ & Daughters by Mark Russ Federman. Ben, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.


By Ligaya Figueras

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7 Responses to “By the Book: Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Couscous with Dried Apricots and Butternut Squash”

  1. Ben King Says:
    October 1st, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Toff’s for traditional fish and chips.

  2. Katie Says:
    October 2nd, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Salt cod brandade with vinegar crisps at Social Eating House. I’d love to try Jason Atherton’s food now that he’s free from Gordon Ramsey!

  3. Michelle Says:
    October 6th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Dosa ‘n’ Chutny in Croydon, I’d like some curry and really want to try a dosa stuffed with mutton.

  4. Harper Says:
    October 7th, 2013 at 11:11 am

    There is a Thai restaurant just outside the Regent’s Park tube stop. I once had a great meal and a cricket lesson from the owner. I would love to go back .

  5. Kalila Says:
    October 7th, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I would love to go to The River Cafe, sample their menu, and enjoy the view of the Thames from the garden. So many great chefs have worked in that kitchen – the foods looks amazing – pure, simple and fresh.

  6. Lauren Says:
    October 7th, 2013 at 11:58 am

    The food halls of Harrod’s. They’re a must-visit every time I go. My favorite things are the mirror-finished silver and gold Jordan almonds. The food halls instantly transport you back in time/make me feel like i’m living out Harry Potter.

    If it has to be a sit down restaurant, St. John. I’m terrified of eating something nose-to-tail but being abroad and in the home of where it began, I’d have to try it. I’d have the cured beef with celeriac and pickled walnuts, new potatoes, and hake, chips, and tartar sauce. It would be a way to confront my food fears and eat at a landmark restaurant at the same time. Afterward I’d go to St. John bakery for a jam doughnut.

  7. Joe Says:
    October 7th, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Any offal that is getting served up at St. John restaurant. Fergus Henderson is the man

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