The rainy season is officially over, which means two things... we no longer have to put on our "winter" clothes to go out in the evening (you wouldn't believe how cold 25C can feel after 6 months of living in a tropical climate!) and we get to enjoy BBQs again on a regular basis. Of course, our way of living here is completely different from back in London - which has its up- and its downsides. On the downside, we no longer can step outside into our own garden to fire up the Weber when we feel like a big juicy steak, as BBQs are not allowed on a condo balcony. But what we lose in spontaneity, we gain in company...
Booking one of the BBQ pits in our condo is such a palaver (filling in a form well in advance, incl. out your FIN number, paying a deposit, etc) that it's worth making a bigger thing out of it. So there you have the upside: we never barbecue alone anymore. It's usually a late-afternoon get-together with a number of families in our block of flats, the children splashing in the pool or riding their scooters, the ladies sipping a cocktail with their feet in the Fish Spa (yes, we have our own!) and the big boys manning the Teppanyaki grill. And we don't even have to worry about cleaning up after!
To minimise the effort involved, everybody chips in with supplying booze, some dips, a selection of side dishes or a dessert - and here is what I made last time. My friend Nina said she loves couscous and is always happy to get new ideas, so I decided on a refreshing couscous salad. You'd really be hard-pressed to find a salad that is easier to prepare - the couscous takes a bowl of stock and all but 15 minutes to soak, then your roast some chopped up vegetables in the oven, throw it all in a bowl, give it a generous glug of olive oil and lime juice and you're ready to rock and roll! If you want to spruce it up a bit, add some chopped herbs or toasted pinenuts, some olives or cubed scamorza, you could even add some left-over roast chicken if you want this to become a more substantial salad - the possibilities are endless.
(serves ca. 12 people as a side dish, 4-6 for a light lunch)
1 medium aubergine
1 medium courgette (zucchini)
6 peppers (2 red, 2 yellow, 2 green)
1 pack mini tomatoes (ca. 200g)
6 small red onions
100 g pine nuts
1 large bunch coriander
300 g couscous
375 ml vegetable stock
5 tbsp olive oil
7 tbsp lime juice
salt & pepper to taste
Cut the aubergine and courgette into dice of about 1 cm. Spread on a baking tray lined with a non-stick mat or alu foil, sprinkle with sea salt and put into the oven (220C). Cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the peppers and onions to the same size, add to the trays in the oven, spreading them evenly and cook for another 15 minutes, after which you add the halved tomatoes and leave in the oevn for another 5 minutes. Remove the trays from the oven and leave to cool.
Weigh the couscous into a bowl, pour over the boiling vegetable stock and leave to infuse and swell up for 15 minutes. Fluff up to separate the grains by going through with a fork.
Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until browning and fragrant. Cool on some kitchen towel.
Chop the coriander roughly, making sure to remove the thicker, tougher stalks.
Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl, making sure to scrape in any juices from the roasting trays as well, then season with olive oil and lime juice, plus salt & pepper to taste.
This salad can be prepared in advance if kept in the fridge overnight - it will even keep for a couple of days.