Tag Archives: raisins

Spiced Raisin Pearl Couscous

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Any exciting plans in the works? I’m thrilled about our plans: we are staying in. Ordering Thai delivery from our favorite place in Chicago, which also happens to be wonderfully cheap (thus allowing us to order a ton of different dishes instead of just 2, and feast on the leftovers for days). Esconcing ourselves in a pile of blankets and watching a movie, or an episode of Dr. Who. Or an episode Downton Abbey. There will be snuggling. There will probably be some mushy romantic talk. Maybe I’ll crack out some of the old correspondence from our dating days. In any case, it’s going to be low-key and cozy, which may be my favorite way to spend not just Valentine’s Day, but any evening.

On that note, I have a completely different story for you. It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.

Once upon a time, on a cold and dreary Thursday night, I went to Bible study at David and Beth’s house. Though I had already eaten dinner at work before heading over, Beth asked if I was hungry, and if I wanted to eat some of her curry. “Just a taste,” I said (Beth is a fabulous cook and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity). I took a bite, and the culinary corner of my soul was in spasms of joy within seconds. It was so, so good! Curry over a pile of pearl couscous, with wonderful juicy raisins and the rich aroma of garam masala pervading it all.

“I must have the recipe!” I cried.

So based on my friend Beth’s description of how she made the couscous part of this lovely mealtime experience, here’s what happened in my kitchen.


(Serves 5)

1 lb Israeli or pearl couscous + 1 sprinkle each red quinoa, orzo, mini garbanzo beans
(OR substitute couscous for 1 package Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend)
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 TBS oil
1 large onion
2 TBS butter
Up to 1 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup raisins

First, it’s all about choices: you can either use some Israeli style (or pearl) couscous with a smattering of orzo, red quinoa, and baby garbanzo beans, or you can simply pick up a bag of this stuff:

Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, which my friend Beth gave me based on the enthusiasm of my ravings about her dish. And her incredible generosity. Thanks Beth.

Finely dice the onion.

Heat the oil in a large skillet with deep sides, or a pot. Add the onion and fry for 10 minutes with 1/4 tsp of salt, until browned and caramelized. Add the garam masala . . .

. . . and stir fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Add the chicken broth, butter, and raisins, and bring to a boil.

Add the couscous, quinoa and orzo.

I added the raisins a little later, as you can see–in the instructions I’m having y’all add them with the broth. Maximum plumpness is necessary.

Bring back to a boil, then cover the pan and lower the heat.

Simmer for 10 minutes, stir vigorously . . .

. . . then let it sit for an additional 5 minutes, covered (this will allow the raisins to plump up a little more). Taste and add up to the full remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt, depending on the saltiness of your chicken broth.

Serve it up!

With cilantro on top, if that floats your boat.

I’ve eaten this as my main dish for dinner (with a side of fresh green beans), as a snack, and under a thick layer of delicious curry.

And you guessed it! Beth’s curry recipe coming on Thursday. It’s possibly my favorite recipe on this blog to date, so you don’t want to miss it.

Click here for printer-friendly version: Spiced Raisin Pearl Couscous

Braised Chicken Curry with Yams

I had forgotten all about this recipe until a few weeks ago I was casting about in my memory for delicious stews to counteract the winter chill . . . and I remembered. All of a sudden, the flavor of this dish came rushing back and I knew I had to make it immediately.

The original recipe comes from Ming Tsai’s East Meets West, which I checked out of the library in Delaware years ago. I had scribbled some brief instructions on a lined sheet of paper which was subsequently swallowed up in my recipe binder where it lived for a few years, forgotten and alone. Until now! Though I loved the base flavor of the original recipe, I wanted some more texture and ‘zing’, so I added some golden raisins and cilantro to finish it off. It’s perfection.

Don’t hesitate–just make it!


(Serves 6)

2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 TBS olive oil

2 large onions

2 TBS minced garlic

1 TBS minced ginger (heaping!)

1/3 c Madras curry powder (fresh as possible)

4 c chicken stock

1 large banana (or 2 small ones)

2 bay leaves

2 large yams, peeled and cubed

1/3 c golden raisins

Garnish with cilantro and blanched almonds, coconut flakes, or lime juice

First, trim the chicken thighs. For some reason the fat on chicken thighs really grosses me out, though I’m immune to the fat of pork or steak.

Now pat them dry (super important!–this will help them brown well) and put salt and pepper all over both sides of them. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. When it’s very hot, add the chicken thighs. You may want to do this in two batches, because if you overcrowd the pot they will steam instead of frying.

It’s important to take your time during this step, because you want a really nice sear. It will probably take 10 minutes per batch. Don’t hurry though–you’re building flavor.

While the thighs are browning, roughly chop the onion. Very roughly.

No mirepoix required here, thank you very much.

Mince the garlic and ginger as well.

You should also have plenty of time to peel and chop the banana.

Once the thighs are done browning, remove them to a plate. They should look something like this:

Your pot will now look something like this:

Without cleaning it, dump the onion, ginger and garlic into the pot . . .

. . . and cook for about 5-6 minutes, until they’re getting golden and wonderful. Stir often so that you don’t burn the garlic! Right now your entire household will come to the kitchen to investigate what that heavenly smell is. Use your tongs with impunity to defend the pot and beat them back.

Now add the curry powder.

What a gorgeous, gorgeous yellow.

Stir constantly and vigorously for no more than 2 minutes. The spices need a couple minutes to get fragrant, but they also burn easily, so keep the ingredients in constant motion.

I should also mention that having the chicken stock handy is important, so that you don’t have to stop stirring. If you burn that curry powder, the flavor of the dish will be . . . not right.

Pour in the chicken stock . . .

. . . and add the bay leaves and banana.

Stir to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pot.

Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and add the chicken back in.

Cover the pot, but leave a little vent for the steam to come out.

Let it simmer for an hour and a half. During this time, the banana will completely dissolve. The flavor it adds is wonderful, but nobody would guess it was created by a banana. If you peak into the pot after half an hour, the banana will look frightening and disturbing. I actually poked at it and asked out loud “What the heck is this thing?” before a logical process of elimination revealed it was the very banana I had peeled and chopped with my own two hands not thirty minutes prior. So don’t peak, and just trust the fact that by the end of the hour and a half it will have completely disappeared.

If you get ravenous, grab a snack. This chocolate from a Big Jake food shipment came in handy. You can see proof that he delights in a good deal by the orange 50 cent sticker.

You should also use this time to peel your yams . . .

. . . and chop them into medium sized cubes.

And rinse and chop some cilantro if you plan on using that.

After 90 minutes, take the lid off the pot and smell the goodness at hand.

Now grab those yams, add them to the pot and give it a good stir to submerge them.

Cook for 30 more minutes with the pot partially covered–but no longer than that or your yams will get really mushy. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the golden raisins.

They will get plump and delicious, and they add a fun burst of texture and flavor.

Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.

Top it with cilantro. Or blanched almonds. Or peanuts! Or lime juice! Or just eat it as is.

The chicken is fork-tender. Mmmmmm.

I also tried sprinkling it with coconut flakes:

Delicious. You can tell this was a different night because the color of the plate has changed.

Make it! It’s fall, and I can’t think of anything else I want for dinner at this moment. A bowl of this magic would hit the spot.

Click here for printer-friendly version: Braised Chicken Curry with Yams