Carmen Niehaus’ Moroccan Chicken Couscous with Piekenierskloof Grenache Noir

Spending your entire childhood on a farm and then ending up in the city jungle, urges one to escape to nature more often than you would normally do. This is why my family and I make sure we book a trip to one or other game park every year.

As a food writer, I often get spoiled with media drop-offs of new products to taste and try. Recently a new couscous, cleverly packed in a perforated bag to ensure no-fuss cooking, landed on my desk.Exactly in time for our annual game park trip and of course the bag of couscous had to go with.

I was so impressed with this invention that I added it to my menu to impress our friends as they joined us for a sundowner. I made sure the bag sat snugly in its jug of boiling water and joined the party again. Soon however, the couscous was totally forgotten and we ended up with a new type of slappap rather than beautiful loose grains of couscous! I didn’t give up on getting it right though. I knew this was going to become a family favourite.

With each trip we make dead certain that we are well stocked with Piekenierskloof wine, not only to enjoy on its own, but also because it is such a great match for our couscous. We don’t mind hitting rock bottom with our meat supply, but running out of wine while scanning a water hole or raving about a beautiful sunset is just a no no (and you must put some aside for gifts too).

The grapes of the Piekenierskloof grenache noir are all harvested from non-irrigated bush vines with a taste profile of lots of juicy red berry, strawberry, savoury and elegant notes of pepper on the palate with hints of cloves, cardamom and even a bit of oak. This pairs beautifully with the more potent and spicy flavours Moroccan dishes are well-known for.

This quick and easy no-fuss couscous dish is loaded with dried fruit and nuts and is made in a jiffy, leaving just enough time for the Piekenierskloof grenache noir to ‘breathe’ a bit. The ideal wine for a family meal or served at an informal party with good friends. Fill a jar with chicken couscous, add a bottle of Piekenierskloof Grenache Noir, and you’re ready for a memorable picnic on your next road trip. A definite on your next well-deserved holiday.

– Carmen Niehaus, food writer & cookbook author

Serves 4 people
Preparation: 20 min
Cooking time: 20—30 min

INGREDIENTS:
CHICKEN
125ml (1/2c) cake flour
70g (80ml/1/3c) seed sprinkle or dukkah
1 egg
4 chicken breast fillets, cubed, or 6 deboned chicken thighs
Salt and freshly grounded black pepper to taste
About 125ml (1/2c) olive oil

COUSCOUS
500ml (2c) boiling water
4 Carmién Creamy Mint green rooibos pyramid teabags
6 Bergendal dried peaches, cubed
250g (300ml) Moroccan couscous
2 medium onions, chopped
5ml (1t) cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4–6 dates, chopped
8 soft dried apricots, chopped
large handful coriander leaves(dhania)
30g (80ml) roasted almonds, coarsely chopped

TO SERVE
Large handful baby spinach leaves or mixed salad leaves
1 small onion, thinly sliced
Few baby tomatoes
1 wheel feta cheese, crumbled
Coriander leaves for garnishing

METHOD:
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Spray a baking sheet with Spray and Cook.
Mix the flour and seed sprinkle or dukkah and spoon into a flat dish. Whisk the egg in another bowl.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. First roll into the whisked egg, then dip into the flour mixture. Refrigerate for 10—15 minutes.
Arrange the chicken on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes or until done, but not dry.
Pour boiling water onto the tea bags and steep for at least 5 minutes.
Pour some tea over the peaches, just enough to rehydrate the peaches a little bit.
Pour 300 ml tea over the couscous, stand for about 2 minutes until most of the tea is absorbed. Microwave for 1 minute. Fluff with two forks.
Add some oil to a heated saucepan and fry the onion, cumin seeds and garlic until the onions are soft. Add the dried fruit and coriander leaves (dhania). Add the couscous and mix well.
Add the chicken to the couscous and mix if preferred or keep separate.
Drizzle with some more olive oil to moisten the couscous but be careful not to make it too oily.
Arrange the spinach or salad leaves on a platter, spoon the couscous on top (with chicken on the side), and top with a sprinkling of almonds, tomatoes, onion rings and coriander leaves. Serve lukewarm or cold.

IN A JAR:
Arrange a layer of spinach or salad leaves on the bottom of the jar. Top with a generous helping of couscous and sprinkle with nuts and onions. Add a layer of chicken. Repeat the layers. Close with a tight-fitting lid.
Hint: The couscous jar can be made the previous evening and kept in the fridge.

FOR A VEGETARIAN OPTION:
Drain a can of chickpeas, dry with paper toweling and season generously with paprika. Fry in a little olive oil till crisp. Add the crispy chickpeas to the couscous instead of the chicken. Double up on the almonds.

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