From Morocco with love

My husband is a bit sad at the moment. A book of his newspaper columns is being published this month and someone just wrote a really, really mean review of it.

It's not like he's not used to people being mean to him. He'd never complain about it publicly because he knows that's just what happens when you put yourself out there: people crap all over you. And, as he always says, it's not like he doesn't give people a kicking all the time - it's not like he's not, basically, just asking for it. But, all the same, just in private, it brought him down a bit.

It pains me when my husband is down, because he's usually such an irrepressible, bouncy, energetic, bomb-proof chatterbox. It's usually me moping around nursing this little hurt or that little slight - I am Eeyore to his Tigger.

So last night, I thought I would host for him a sort-of-morrocan feast in the garden, with mood lighting and very spicy food. Maybe even a tablecloth; definitely some strong drink. I even decorated our vine with glass hanging tealight holders - a wedding present from The Pescetarian:

One of my husband's favourite restaurants is an old place in the south of France called Chez Grandmere, which serves merguez sausages, carrots and celery cooked in a thick broth and cous-cous cooked in stock.

There's no way I was going to be able to accurately render the cooking at CG, where they cook over hot scented charcoal, working to Grandmere's secret recipes.

But I was going to do my interpretation of it, with lovely merguez sausages purchased this weekend from the Twleve Green Acres butcher stall at the Parliament Hill Farmer's Market, carrots and celery boiled nearly-whole (to retain their sweetness) in a strong chicken stock and a moroccan couscous thing with sultanas and pine nuts and a minted yoghurt.

I imagine that most of you will be weirded out by the whole vegetables, but they do really bring something earthy and exciting to a dinner like this. If you want to do it, choose smallish carrots and cook them whole, like Fergus Henderson does, in order to retain their sweetness. It's important that you cook them in a proper chicken stock - bought concentrate won't do (and you know how slack I am about that kind of stuff).

For a convincing morroccan-tasting couscous add to your dry grains:

A pinch ground cumin
A pinch ground coriander
A pinch paprika
sultanas OR chopped dried apricots
toasted pine nuts

Give this dry mixture a stir and then pour on your boiling water or stock from cooking your vegetables and leave to cook. When ready, sprinkle over a handful of chopped coriander.

I mean, it probably takes more than a dinner to cheer you up after a really bad review but at least he knows that someone loves him.

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