All posts by Claire Sibonney

Claire Sibonney is freelance writer and food fanatic based in Toronto. Previously, she was the digital director at Canadian Living and a reporter at Thomson Reuters. Her current obsession is feeding her two little girls, food critics in training.
vegan no-bake strawberry lemon tart on countertop

Say Hello to Spring With This Healthy No-Bake Vegan Strawberry Lemon Tart

Pucker up for this bright and tangy, no-bake strawberry lemon tart. You don’t have to be vegan to love this dairy-free dessert, but you can still appreciate how healthy it is — a gluten-free and paleo-friendly dessert, with no refined sugar. Plump Medjool dates make the nut-based crust perfectly sweet and chewy, paired with a fruity filling of coconut milk, fresh strawberries, lemon juice and a splash of maple syrup. (It’s thickened with just a bit of agar and tapioca powders, which you can find at most bulk or health food stores).

vegan no-bake strawberry lemon tart on countertop

Vegan No-Bake Strawberry Lemon Tart

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rest Time: 2-3 hours or overnight
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup raw walnuts
1 ¼ cup raw cashews
1 cup oats
2 ½ cups pitted Medjool dates, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted (plus extra for greasing pan)
3 tsp vanilla, divided
¼ tsp sea salt
4 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
¼ cup maple syrup
4 Tbsp tapioca starch/flour (or 2 Tbsp of arrowroot powder)
4 Tbsp cool water
1 (14 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
2 tsp agar powder

vegan no-bake strawberry lemon tart ingredients

Directions:

1. In a food processor or heavy-duty blender, combine walnuts, cashews, oats, dates, coconut oil, 1 tsp vanilla and sea salt. Pulse for about 1 minute or until the dates and nuts are combined and stick together.

2. Press the crust mixture into the bottom and sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan (preferably with removable bottom). Set aside while making the filling.

vegan no-bake strawberry lemon tart crust

3. Add strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, maple syrup and 2 tsp vanilla extract (and arrowroot powder only if you’re using it as a substitute for tapioca) to a blender or food processor and pulse or blend until pureed, about 1 minute, and set aside.

4. Stir the tapioca powder into 4 Tbsp of cool water. Set aside.

Related: Healthy Baking Recipes for When You’re Bored at Home

5. Add coconut milk and agar powder to a small saucepan, stirring while it simmers until thickened, around 1 minute. Once it’s bubbling, gradually add tapioca slurry, stirring continuously until it’s glossy and even thicker, about another minute.

6. Remove from heat and stir in strawberry mixture until combined. (If you have any clumps, don’t worry! Pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer).

vegan no-bake strawberry lemon tart being cooked in pot

7. Pour filling mixture into tart crust, chilling in the fridge for at least  2-3 hours or overnight. (Store for up to one week). Before serving, decorate with pretty berries, lemon slices and flowers.

vegan no-bake strawberry lemon tart on countertop

Like Claire’s vegan strawberry lemon tart? Try her vegan Girl Guide cookies or her vegan Moroccan doughnuts.

Moroccon-style stuffed artichokes

You Will *Heart* These Moroccan Stuffed Artichokes

These stuffed artichoke hearts take me back to festive Shabbat dinners and Passover seders with my family. My Moroccan mother makes this dish with frozen artichoke hearts (found at Middle Eastern grocery stores), but you can also use fresh artichokes if you’re up to the task of peeling and cutting them. If you’re short on time, skip the step of dredging and frying — both ways are classic — but I like the texture it adds. If you’re making this dish for Passover, you can swap regular flour for matzo meal. For a gluten-free option, you can also use chickpea flour.

Moroccon-style stuffed artichokes

Moroccan Stuffed Artichokes

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Servings: 16 stuffed artichokes

Ingredients:

Sauce
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp turmeric
1 lemon, halved and juiced, reserving both juice and peel
3 cups chicken broth
½ cup chopped cilantro
4 or 5 inner celery stalks, cut into 3-inch chunks (can substitute with cardoon stalks or anise)

Stuffed Artichokes

½ lb of ground beef (can substitute with chicken, turkey, lamb or a mix)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp cracked black pepper (or ground white pepper)
1 egg, beaten
1 potato, grated (with peel if it’s thin-skinned)
1 onion, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp ras el hanout
½ tsp turmeric
2 14-oz bags of frozen artichoke hearts (also known as artichoke bottoms), defrosted or 16 fresh artichokes (peeled and cleaned into hearts by removing leaves, fuzzy choke and stem)

Dredging (optional)
3 eggs, beaten, seasoned with sea salt
1 cup flour, seasoned with sea salt (can substitute flour with matzo meal or gluten-free chickpea flour)
Canola oil

Moroccon-style stuffed artichokes ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. Make the sauce. You’ll need an extra-large saute pan with a lid or a tagine. Heat olive oil on medium heat, add garlic, sauteing for about 30 seconds, then add turmeric right before adding lemon juice and chicken broth. Add lemon peels and cilantro. Reduce to simmer. (Keep celery chunks aside to be added later).

Related: Traditional Jewish Comfort Food Recipes to Try

2. Make the meat filling for the artichokes. In a bowl, mix the meat with the cilantro, sea salt, black pepper, egg, potato, onion, garlic, ras el hanout and turmeric. Mound mixture into artichoke hearts.

Moroccon-style stuffed artichokes ready to stuff

3. Prepare for dredging and frying (optional). Place beaten eggs in one bowl and flour in another. Lightly cover the stuffed artichokes in flour, dusting off excess and then dip in egg mixture and set aside. When you’re done coating half of them, heat a large skillet with about an inch of canola oil on medium to medium-high. Finish coating the remainder of the stuffed artichokes and then begin frying, handling gently with a large slotted spoon. The stuffed artichokes should be golden on both sides, about one minute per side. Work in batches so you don’t overcrowd them.

Moroccon-style stuffed artichokes ready to cook

4. Place the celery chunks in the sauce pan, covering most of the bottom of the pan. Place the stuffed artichokes, meat side up, over the celery pieces and the sauce. (If your pan isn’t large enough to fit all 16 stuffed artichokes side by side, divide sauce and celery between two medium-sized pans).

5. Cover and simmer for one hour until artichokes are tender, meat is fully cooked and sauce is reduced. Serve with the sauce and enjoy with crusty bread, rice or matzah.

Moroccon-style stuffed artichokes

Like Claire’s stuffed artichokes recipe? Try her comforting mujadara or sfenj AKA Moroccan doughnuts.

DIY Girl Guide cookies on plate with milk

DIY Girl Guide Cookies: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Thin Mints

A Girl Guide favourite just got even more wholesome. These simple, seven-ingredient vegan thin mints are dairy-free, gluten-free and made without refined sugar. The almond flour gives them a rich and nutty flavour that’s still neutral enough to remind you of the real thing — only more delicious. Enjoy them straight out of the fridge with a glass of cold almond or oat milk.

DIY Girl Guide cookies with milk

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Thin Mint Cookies

Prep Time: 50 minutes
Rest Time: 60 minutes
Bake Time: 8 to 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 24 to 30 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup + 3 tsp coconut oil, divided
¼ cup maple syrup
1 ¾ tsp peppermint extract, divided
⅛ tsp sea salt
1 ½ cups dark chocolate chips or chunks

DIY Girl Guide cookies ingredients on counter

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond flour, cocoa powder, ¼ cup melted coconut oil, maple syrup, 1 ¼ tsp peppermint extract and sea salt until it forms a sticky, slightly crumbly dough. Divide the cookie dough into two parts and flatten into discs. Cover each disc in food wrap and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

Related: The Sweet Prairie History of Girl Guide Cookies

3. Place one chilled dough disc on a piece of parchment paper and roll out until it’s about ¼ inch thick. Cut out circles using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, using up all the remaining dough scraps. Repeat with the second disc of chilled dough.

DIY Girl Guide cookies dough

4. Put cookies on the lined baking sheet, spacing evenly and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheet, about 20 minutes.

DIY Girl Guide cookies on baking trray

5. Once the cookies are cooled, make the chocolate coating. Combine chocolate chips and 3 tsp coconut oil in a small bowl and melt in the microwave in 15-second intervals or on the stove using a double boiler. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in a scant ½ tsp peppermint extract.

6. Carefully dip the cookies into the chocolate coating with a fork, flipping over to get all sides. Let any excess chocolate drip off before placing them on the baking sheet.

DIY Girl Guide cookies melted chocolate

7. Cool the tray of dipped cookies in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens, about 20 to 30 minutes.

8. Store the cookies in the refrigerator or freezer and enjoy them chilled.

Like Claire’s vegan thin mints recipe? Try her sfenj AKA Moroccan doughnuts or her upside-down apple cake.

Sfenj doughnuts on colourful tablecloth

Sfenj AKA Moroccan Doughnuts: Your New Fave Hanukkah Dessert Using Just 5 Ingredients!

Sfenj, derived from the Arabic word for “sponge,” are crispy and chewy doughnuts made with unsweetened, sticky yeast dough that is risen until light and fluffy, pulled into rings and fried until golden. They’re a breakfast staple in Morocco and other Maghrebi countries and often eaten by Sephardic Jews during Hanukkah, symbolizing the oil that fuelled the holiday miracle. Sfenj should be served piping hot and can be enjoyed plain, drizzled with honey or dusted with sugar. They’re simple to make at home, only require the most basic ingredients and don’t contain any eggs or milk — so you can add them to your list of best vegan recipes too.

Sfenj dougnuts on colourful tablecloth

Sfenj Moroccan Doughnuts With Honey and Sugar

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Rest Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes
Servings: 12 to 15 doughnuts

Ingredients:

Doughnuts
3 tsp dry active yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1 ¾ cups lukewarm water, divided
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp sea salt
Vegetable oil for frying

Topping
Honey (optional)
Ground cinnamon (optional)
Granulated or icing sugar (optional)

Sfenj doughnut ingredients on kitchen counter

Directions:

1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in ½ cup of lukewarm water and set aside to bloom for 10 minutes.

2. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast mixture with flour and gradually add 1 ¼ cups of lukewarm water until it forms a sticky dough. Then add the salt and continue to knead for about 10 minutes, which will make the dough springy and elastic. A stand mixer with a hook attachment is ideal for this, but you can also mix by hand, working the dough vigorously. The dough should still end up very sticky and loose.

Related: You’ve Been Making Couscous All Wrong. Here’s the Right Way to Prepare It

3. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise for 2 to 3 hours, until light, airy — and they double or triple in size. (To speed up the rising time, put dough in the oven with the light turned on).

4. In a high-sided pan or pot, heat 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil on medium heat until hot, measured on a candy or deep-fry thermometer between 360°F to 370°F. (A Dutch oven works great for this because it maintains a consistent temperature and its heavy weight anchors it to the burner, reducing the risk of accidents when deep frying). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the temperature of the oil with the handle end of a wooden spoon. If you see lots of little bubbles form around the wood, your oil is ready to fry in.

Related: Cozy Jewish Comfort Food Recipes

5. Keep a small bowl of cold water handy for wetting your hands before you shape each doughnut. Lightly punch down the dough to deflate it. Pull off a piece of batter about the size of an egg. Use your thumb to make a hole in the centre of the dough and then pull gently to form a doughnut shape. (Don’t worry about getting them perfect, they will puff up nicely in the oil).

Woman shaping sfenj doughnut dough

6. Carefully put the doughnuts one at a time into the pot of hot oil and don’t overcrowd them. (A good rule of thumb is 3 to 4 doughnuts at a time). Fry the doughnuts for 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown on the bottom and puffed on top. Then flip carefully with a slotted spoon or metal tongs and cook on the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes, until even in colour and golden brown all over.

Sfenj doughnuts frying in oil

7. Remove the finished doughnuts onto a cooling rack lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve piping hot or warm, either plain, drizzled with hot honey or dusted with cinnamon or sugar — and preferably accompanied by a glass of Moroccan mint tea.

Sfenj doughnuts being dusted with sugar

Like Claire’s sfenj recipe? Try her upside-down apple cake or comforting mujadara recipe.

This Upside-Down Apple Cake is a Must-Make Rosh Hashanah Dessert

This flavourful glazed apple cake recipe is a mashup of two of my favourite fall desserts: a simple and delicious honey apple cake that I grew up eating on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and a show-stopping upside-down salted caramel apple cake that has become a more recent indulgence. I’ll be serving it for dessert at our Jewish New Year dinner, as well as Thanksgiving, because it’s one of those crowd-pleasing autumn cakes that has something for everyone, from the tender and nutty crumb to the sticky, sweet and salty topping. It’s also made almost entirely in a good old cast-iron skillet, which has become my new go-to for everything from barbecuing to baking.

Upside-Down Apple Cake With Honey and Salted Caramel

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Total Time: 60 to 70  minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

Topping
2 Tbsp + ½ cup unsalted butter, divided
4 small or 3 large baking apples such as Gala or Pink Lady, peeled, halved and cores neatly scooped out with a teaspoon or melon baller
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour, toasted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup light-coloured honey
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt (4% or 5%), room temperature
Flaked sea salt to finish (optional)

Directions:

1. Set the rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread almond flour on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden. Set aside to cool. Keep the oven on.

2. Meanwhile, heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or other oven-safe pan) over medium heat. Cast-iron takes longer to heat up than other pans, so leave it on for a good 5 minutes before you start cooking for even heat distribution. Add 2 Tbsp butter to coat and arrange apple halves with cut sides down. Cook apples until cut sides are evenly golden brown. (Don’t stir). This can take 5 to 10 minutes or a bit longer, depending on the type of apples you’re using, so keep a close eye on them and rotate as needed. Turn apples over and cook for about 5 more minutes, until slightly tender and juices start to release. Transfer apples to a plate with cut sides up.

3. To make the caramel sauce, add ½ cup butter to the skillet on low heat. When it starts to bubble, stir in brown sugar. Keep stirring until smooth and thickened for about 2 minutes. (If it’s separating, add one or two spoonfuls of very hot water). Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla. Let cool for 1 minute. Arrange apples, cut sides down, on top of the caramel sauce, spacing evenly.

4. For the cake: whisk together flour, toasted almond flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

5. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat butter, brown sugar and honey together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture, then the yogurt, until combined. Beat in remaining flour mixture until incorporated and no flour pockets remain. Do not over-mix.

Related: Transform Those Overripe Bananas Into This Impressive Upside-Down Cake

6. Spoon batter over apples and caramel in skillet, smoothing evenly.

7. Bake until it is evenly browned and the middle springs back when pressed lightly, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let the apple cake cool in the skillet for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a small knife or offset spatula around the edges to loosen and flip over onto a cooling rack or dish. (If any apples stick to the skillet, gently scrape them off and press them back into the top of the cake).

Related: Pomegranate Ginger Chicken for a Sweet and Fruitful Rosh Hashanah

8. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt flakes and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream and mint tea. Store covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Love Claire’s upside-down apple cake? For a main, whip up her vegetarian mujadara dish or seven-vegetable Moroccan couscous.

This Comforting Mujadara Recipe is Our Favourite Way to Cook Rice

Mujadara is a simple and delicious dish of lentils, rice, spices and fried onions. The first-known recipe of this popular Middle Eastern dish can be found in a 13th-century Iraqi cookbook. This vegetarian meal was once considered to be “food of the poor” — as its inexpensive and readily available ingredients can feed many people. It gets its rich, infused flavour by coating the rice in olive oil and spices before cooking it. If you have leftover rice, you can improvise a cheat version of mujadara and fold it in with the lentils and onions at the end. But it’s always best to start with a traditional recipe from scratch before you begin experimenting with shortcuts — so you know how it’s meant to turn out. This recipe is adapted from methods from my favourite Middle Eastern chefs, who bring Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Syrian influences to their recipes. I remember trying mujadara for the first time as a little girl and savouring the crispy onions — and now, when I make it for my own children, they also eat the onions first!

Vegetarian Mujadara

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6 (depending on if it’s a main or side)

Ingredients:

1 cup vegetable oil
3 large or 4 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced as evenly as possible
1 ½ cups water
1 ¼ cups brown or green lentils
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 cup basmati rice
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 bunch of parsley, picked off the stems and roughly chopped (optional)
1 lemon, quartered for serving
Sea salt and black pepper

Serve this mujadara recipe warm or at room temperature, with a side of plain Greek yogurt or labneh, lemon wedges, parsley and a chopped salad of tomato and cucumber.

Directions:

1. Heat the vegetable oil on medium to high in a heavy-bottom saucepan with a lid or a Dutch oven. Once the oil is hot, add half of the onions. Fry for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a rich golden brown. Some dark bits are fine, that’s where you’ll get the bitterness. If the onions are all the same size, they will cook more evenly. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onions to a colander or plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. (Act fast— the onions crisp up quickly at this stage and it’s in the last seconds where they’ll go from brown to black if you’re not careful). Season with salt. Repeat with second batch and set aside.

2. While the onions are frying, add the lentils to a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the lentils are soft, but slightly firm in the centre. Drain and set aside.

Related: 25 Healthy Middle Eastern Recipes You’ll Make on Repeat

3. Drain the oil from the saucepan you fried the onions in and wipe it clean. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, rice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to coat the rice with the oil and spices. If you’re adding sugar, now is the time to put it in as well. Bring to a boil before simmering on low heat for 15 minutes. (Be patient and don’t open the lid — you don’t want any of that steam to escape).

4. Remove from heat, take the lid off and immediately cover with a clean tea towel and put the lid back on, sealing tightly. This will allow the mujadara to keep steaming gently. Let rest for about 10 minutes.

5. Transfer the rice and lentils into a large mixing bowl or straight into your serving platter and then gently fold in half the fried onions.
Top with the second half of the fried onions and garnish with parsley.

Like Claire’s vegetarian mujadara? Try her mother’s recipe for seven-vegetable Moroccan couscous.

You’ve Been Making Couscous All Wrong. Here’s the Right Way to Prepare It

Couscous is a staple of North African cuisine and it’s undeniably Morocco’s most recognized dish around the world — yet chances are that until now, you’ve been eating and serving it all wrong. The following is my mother’s recipe for seven-vegetable Moroccan couscous. She grew up in Casablanca and learned the traditional technique from her own mother. Note that while many authentic versions of couscous use smen (a fermented butter), our Sephardic Jewish family makes a kosher version with olive oil instead.

Seven-Vegetable Moroccan Couscous Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 90 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs or 4 whole legs or substitute with a homemade chicken or vegetable broth
1 large onion, peeled
1 cup dried chickpeas (soaked overnight) or 1 can of chickpeas
1 small butternut squash, seeded and cut into large wedges (no need to peel)
6-8 celery stalks, quartered
5 medium to large carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise
1 green bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1-2 ripe tomatoes, whole
1 bunch of parsley and/or cilantro, tied with cooking twine (reserve and chop 2-3 Tbsp for garnish)
¼ cup saffron water (dry out ½ tsp crushed saffron threads in a warm skillet, crush again and add to 1 cup of hot water, not boiling)
1 ½ Tbsp of coarse salt
¾ tsp turmeric, divided
2-3 zucchinis, half peeled, cut in half lengthwise
1 large sweet potato
2 turnips, cut in large chunks
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound dried, medium-grain couscous
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
½ cup of blanched almonds, sliced

If you want to know how to make real couscous, you’re going to have to forget everything you know about the quick-cooking and soaking method. Authentic Moroccan couscous involves slowly and lovingly steaming it to fluffy (never clumpy) perfection in a couscoussier, the North African cookware which looks like a double boiler or stackable steamer. The lower pot is used to make the broth that will both steam the couscous and be served on top of it. The perforated upper pot is for the couscous grains. If you can’t get a couscoussier, you can use a metal colander or perforated steamer that fits snugly over a stock pot. You’ll want to line it with a later of cheesecloth.



Directions:

Broth
1. In the bottom vessel of a couscoussier or a stock pot, add the chicken, onion, soaked chickpeas (if using), squash, celery, carrots, green pepper, tomatoes, parsley/cilantro bouquet, saffron water, salt and ½ tsp turmeric.

2. Fill with water to cover the vegetables and chicken, leaving room at the top for the broth to bubble up.

3. Cover pot and bring to a rapid boil, then simmer for about 30-45 minutes until the vegetables soften and the chicken is fully cooked through, skimming any impurities from the broth as it cooks.

Related: From Homemade Bread to Pickles, 20 Recipes to Master While Indoors

4. Add zucchini, sweet potato and turnips to the broth and canned chickpeas (if using). Cook for another 15-20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Add black pepper to taste.

Couscous
1. While the broth is cooking, dump the couscous grains in a wide and shallow pan, cover with two cups of water and let stand for 1 minute. Stir and then pour out any excess water. Let sit for about 15 minutes for the grains to dry out a bit.

2. With wet hands, lift the grains while rubbing them gently between your fingers and the palms of the hand to release any clumps, letting the couscous fall back into the bowl, 2-3 times.

3. Drizzle the couscous with olive oil (or rub the oil on your hands) and sprinkle the grains with ¼ tsp of turmeric and season with salt. Start to separate and gently work the grains again until the turmeric, olive oil and salt are well incorporated and the couscous is uniformly golden, about 1-2 minutes. Then rake the couscous with your fingers, which will plump up the grains. (This is how the couscous gets soft and fluffy).

4. Gently place the couscous grains in the top vessel of the couscoussier or colander. Place it over the bubbling soup and let it steam for 15 minutes, uncovered, making sure that the broth in the bottom pot doesn’t come into direct contact with the couscous grains while steaming. To help the couscous steam evenly and prevent it from clumping, toss with two forks every 5 minutes.

5. Now, transfer the steamed couscous back into the pan and spread grains out evenly. Pour a couple ladles of the hot broth over the couscous and gently mix with two forks. Let stand for 10 minutes.

6. Transfer couscous grains back to the top of the couscoussier or colander for its second steaming for another 5-10 minutes until light, fluffy and heated through.

7. Dump the finished grains directly from the couscoussier or colander onto a large, shallow dish or serving platter. Discard herb bouquet, onion, tomatoes and green pepper that were added for flavour. Top the grains with remaining cooked vegetables from the broth. Optional to include the cooked chicken, separated from any bones.

Related: This Mint and Lemon Pearl Couscous Salad is What Every Dinner Table Needs

8. Garnish with sliced almonds and chopped cilantro/parsley. You can also serve with a side of broth, so guests can moisten as desired.

Optional: Make a quick North African red pepper sauce by combining 1-2 tsp of prepared or homemade harissa paste with 1 cup of the broth, a couple pinches of cumin and fresh lemon juice and olive oil to taste. In Morocco, this is a classic and delicious accompaniment to spoon over the couscous.

Besseha!

Craving more? Here are some recipes that prove harissa paste belongs in all your meals.  You might want to try these top food trends for 2020, too.

Annie Sibonney’s Comforting North African Shakshuka

Ever since we were little, my twin sister has always been willing to cook, and I’ve always been willing to eat. No one was surprised when Annie Sibonney became a chef (and Food Network host ), while I became a journalist who writes a lot about food. Though we pursued different interests and have even lived in separate countries over the years, sharing food together brings us back to our roots.

Growing up in a French Moroccan home, one of the most cherished food memories from our childhood is shakshuka, an impressive North African dish of eggs poached in a bubbling, fragrant stew of tomatoes and spices. This was the dish that got everyone out of bed in our house. It’s the kind of one-skillet meal that connects everyone around a table. It’s cutlery-optional. All you really need is a perfectly crusty loaf of bread for sopping up the sauce and the rich, runny egg yolks.

Shakshuka-ready-on-a-table

Photo by Claire Sibonney
Claire Sibonney

Shakshuka is wildly popular throughout the Middle East for breakfast or brunch but can stand on its own for any meal of the day. With its heady aromas of garlic, onion, paprika and cumin, it’s the kind of dish that gets people’s attention.

Eggs simmered in a spicy sauce is so simple and satisfying that it’s eaten in many iterations around the world—from Italian eggs in purgatory to huevos rancheros in Mexico and menemen in Turkey—all of these dishes involve a little magic as the resulting meal is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Some people add feta, olives, sweet bell peppers or even potatoes to shakshuka, but for purists it’s not necessary. Although a bowl of labneh—Lebanese strained yogurt—or olives on the side never hurt.

More than anything, it’s a dish that’s meant to be shared—the bigger and louder the gathering, the better. When it’s served, the shakshaka pan (Annie uses a cast-iron bottom of a traditional Moroccan tagine here) is placed in the centre of the table and the portion closest to you is yours. One of the only rules of sharing shakshuka: never dip your bread into someone else’s yolk, even if it’s your twin sister’s!

annie-sibonney-with-Shakshuka-ingredients

Photo by Claire Sibonney
Claire Sibonney

North African Shakshuka Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the final dish
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or 28 oz canned whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand)
1 medium onion, finely sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small green chili pepper such as jalapeño or serrano, seeds removed and finely chopped
4 large eggs
1 ½ Tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp hot paprika or substitute with ground ancho powder, optional
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup water, plus more if necessary
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of roughly chopped cilantro or parsley leaves, or a mix of both

Shakshuka-ingredients

Photo by Claire Sibonney
Claire Sibonney

Directions:
1. Heat a medium-sized heavy skillet, such as cast iron over medium heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the onions until they have softened but not browned. Add the garlic, chili pepper and spices and stir for 1 minute, just enough for the kitchen to smell wonderfully aromatic.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes, water and salt to taste and increase the heat to high for 1-2 minutes, stirring the mix so that the tomatoes start to break down into a sauce and comes to a bubbling simmer. Reduce heat to medium once more. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
3. The sauce should have a pungent flavour and a deep-red colour from the spices. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful not to scorch the sauce. Add more water if necessary to maintain the consistency of a rustic pasta sauce.
4. With the back of a large spoon, make room for each egg in the pan by creating little wells in the sauce. Carefully crack the eggs one at a time into a small bowl, making sure to keep the yolks intact.
5. Gently tip in your eggs, one at a time into the sauce, making sure to leave enough space between them. Season each egg with a little more salt. Cook for 10-13 minutes longer at a gentle simmer, rotating the pan constantly (do not stir!) to poach the eggs evenly in the sauce. The shakshuka is ready when the egg whites are set and cooked but the yolks are still bright, golden and velvety. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro and parsley over the finished dish with a liberal drizzle of olive oil.
6. For an authentic family-style meal, serve the shakshuka in its pan at the centre of the table and don’t forget plenty of good quality crusty bread to soak up the tomato sauce and to dip into the decadent yolks.

claire-and-annie-sibonney-eating-Shakshuka

Photo by Masumi Sato

Looking for more fresh summer recipes? Try our 40 Fresh Tomato Recipes.