Savoury,  Spicy

Vegetable couscous and crestfallen hens

As if a deeply neurotic dog isn’t enough to cope with, I now appear to have a depressed hen on my hands. She’s been a bit down in the beak since the arrival of the young louts and has taken to spending time alone, presumably heeding the French adage ‘Il vaut mieux être seul que mal accompagné’ (it’s better to be alone than badly accompanied). I’m a dab hand at dealing with dippy horses (two headcollars ripped to shreds in under five minutes today; a record even by our standards) and bipolar dogs, but this is somewhat baffling…
I made this vegetable couscous with her in mind as it meant lots of vegetable peelings and some remnents of couscous grain to perk her up a bit. I used spelt couscous which is nutty, subtle and lighter than wheat couscous, but you can use either. I’m a big fan of spelt, an ancient protein-rich grain offering a far broader range of nutrients than wheat (manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B3, magnesium, copper…). It also seems to cause fewer digestive problems than wheat, although it does contain gluten.
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 onion, peeled and sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 red pepper (sliced)
2 tomatoes (blanched, peeled and sliced)
1 large courgette, cut into approximately 4cm slices
4 baby turnips, peeled
100g pre-cooked chickpeas
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons ras-el-hanout
200ml chicken or vegetable stock
200g couscous
handful of raisins
harissa and fresh mint to serve
Fry the onions in the olive oil, gradually adding the other vegetables. Add the seasoning, spices and stock and simmer for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Prepare the couscous according to instructions, adding the raisins to the boiling water. Serve the couscous and ladle the vegetables and sauce over the top. This is good either on its own or to accompany grilled or barbecued sausages and meat.


  • Chez Foti

    Ah bless your down-in-the-dumps hen, hope she was at least cheered by the veggie peelings. We appear to have rather fussy hens who collectively look in distain at any raw veggie peelings, preferring instead for me to effortfully cook them up in one of my special ‘chicken stews’ (obviously not actually containing chicken as that would be just a little too weird).

  • apuginthekitchen

    I love your stories as much as I love your recipes. This spelt couscous is lovely. I’ve never had spelt couscous but intend to try it, I too love spelt. Give that depressed hen a kiss from me and tell her everything will be alright. I have heard how hens can become very depressed. Maybe she needs some excitement in her life and is a little bored. A rooster mayber???

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      Ah thank you – it’s very sweet of you to say that – I sometimes think I go on a bit about my eccentric animals, but they really fascinate me 🙂 I think a rooster might just be an excitement too far 😉 Plus, I’m not keen on the idea of being woken up every morning at the crack of dawn – it’s bad enough being woken up by the horses galloping like crazy everywhere 😉

      • apuginthekitchen

        Oh I forgot about the crowing, I would love to be surrounded by all those animals, I tend to gravitate towards animals with neuroses of some sort, I have had an agoraphobic dog, Izzy my sweet little girl pug is OCD and has a terrible fear of abandonment, I think your life sounds wonderful, depressed hen and all, and we cannot forget Hugo who is brilliant in his own right,

        • The Healthy Epicurean

          There’s definitely something vulnerable and attractive about slightly mad animals (and people for that matter!) Like you, we seem to ‘collect’ them – I suppose like attracts like. And as you say, Hugo is something of a genius really – I think he might be gearing up to write another post soon – I keep catching him looking very pensive…
          I’ve heard of dogs with fear of abandonment, but how on earth do you deal with an agoraphoblic dog? Do you teach him to use the bathroom 😉 ?

  • Fig & Quince

    melting while reading about the tale of the crestfallen hen …. awww! hope she perked up with the color bounty of peels? the couscous looks delish

      • Fig & Quince

        Your life and stories remind me of one my very favorite non-fiction books: “Enslaved by Ducks” … if you haven’t read it you must, it is funny & poignant … just like here!

        • The Healthy Epicurean

          I’ve just read a review on Amazon and I’m going to order it. The funny thing is that, like the author, I wasn’t keen on having hens; it was my husband and son that bought them. For some reason though, I find them absolutely intriguing in a way I’d never have thought possible… Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll let you know what I think…

  • andreamynard

    Hope the hens have perked up. And the couscous looks lovely, hadn’t heard of the spelt variety either, but will look out for it now.

  • annelifaiers

    I love couscous and this sounds really delicious and healthy. Never seen spelt couscous…did you buy it out here on in the UK? I will have to check my Bio shop but that nuttyness sounds really good…

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      I bought it here – it’s just called ‘couscous d’épeautre’. If you have a good bio shop they should stock it, or at least be able to order it. It’s tastier than regular couscous IMO…

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