London’s Most Exclusive Couscous

There’s nothing new about couscous with tomatoes and, perhaps, herbs, served either cold as a salad or hot as a side dish. So I was a little surprised at my delight when I had a particularly delicious version the other day. I guess I was surprised mainly because this was at a private club in London, one of those leather-bound places that began to admit women as members only ten minutes (or fifteen years) ago. Clubs like this aren’t supposed to serve decent food, only excellent booze, including ancient Bordeaux at less-than-liquor-store prices. I won’t mention its name, because if I do a notice will appear on the bulletin board, beginning “Members are reminded….” Not that I’m a member, but one must play the game.

Anyway, the trick with this couscous was that they roasted the tomatoes before folding them into the cooked grain, so they were intensely flavorful and a little chewy. This is easily done: cut small plum tomatoes in half lengthwise, oil them, salt them, thyme them and put them into a 375-degree oven, cut side up, until they are, well, intensely flavorful and a little chewy. This could take 35 minutes, or it could take longer, depending on how juicy the tomatoes are to start with. If they are very, very juicy, you could squeeze out some of the goo before roasting. Note that you don’t want them charred – the bright color is part of the appeal of the dish.

Cut the roasted tomatoes into half-inch squares and set them aside until you’re ready to mix them into couscous that has been prepared however you like to prepare it. The club version was made with a light chicken stock and included slivered basil, which was just lovely. It was served, incidentally, with crisp-skinned guinea fowl that, again, was far better than I had any reason to expect.

And, yes, the wine was great, and a great bargain.


Posted in Middle Eastern


  1. monicashaw said...

    The wine better be a bargain – those membership prices are a bear. (Welcome to London, btw!)

  2. Anonymous said...

    Hi Mark! You must check out Gordon’s Wine Bar, it’s an institution! It’s underground, with catacombesque low vaulted ceilings, drippy candles and drippy walls, and sherry from barrels! V

  3. Anonymous said...

    Mark: I always read you in the NYTimes. I’m totally loyal!! I desperately need a clever veggie recipe to bring to a break fast tomorrow night. I have tons of green beans left from my c.s.a. share. Do you have a brilliant idea. I was going to make a fingerling potato/green bean salad, but the potatoes are nowhere to be found in the WDC area. I like their nutty taste and thought they would work best, w/ a light vinaigrette. Help!!! And have a sweet new year too! Alene

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