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Basil Pistou and Spring Vegetable Giant Couscous-zotto

Basil Pistou and Spring Vegetable Giant Couscous-zotto

“I now use giant couscous as often as I do risotto rice, and in this recipe I move away from risotto’s traditional technique of endless stirring, without compromising the irresistibly creamy result. The giant couscous takes about ten minutes out of the recipe, without taking out any of the taste. I particularly love the couscous with spring vegetables, and binding them with pistou (the French pesto) gives their simple flavours an extravagant taste. For an express version replace the vegetables with 250g of frozen peas.

To go one step better for younger kids, this dish can also be made with giant wholemeal cous cous. Chop the vegetables into smaller pieces and stir them into the giant couscous for a great way to introduce new vegetables into their diet.”

By Alex Mackay

  • Serves 4

  • 30 minutes

  • 2 pans

  • Proficient

Suitable for dairy-free, vegans and vegetarians

Dried Wholewheat Giant Couscous


  • 200g Merchant Gourmet Giant Couscous
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 250ml water
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1, 20-25g (average supermarket size) bunch of basil, thick stalks finely sliced
  • 250g of any mixed green vegetables you like (I used asparagus, broad beans, sugar snaps, peas and spring onions)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp of freshly grated plant-based Parmesan


Prep Ahead – Cook the vegetables a day ahead

1.Start with the pistou. Boil your kettle. Fill a large pot 3/4 full with boiling water. Put a bowl of cold water next to your cooker. Boil the basil for 30 seconds. Transfer it to the bowl of cold water with a sieve; keep the cooking water for the vegetables. As soon as the basil is cold, drain it. Put the basil in a small liquidiser and add 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and the parmesan. Blend to a smooth puree. Put the puree next to your cooker

2.Next, start the couscousotto. Get a medium (16-18cm) saucepan. Add the vegetable stock, garlic and 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Bring to the boil and add the giant couscous. Bring back to the boil again. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 6 minutes or until tender. Take off the lid. Simmer for 1 minute more. By now the giant couscous should have absorbed most of the liquid, be very creamy and just cooked through but firm. Cover, and leave to sit for 2 minutes. By this stage your vegetables should be ready too. Don’t panic if they are not, the giant couscous is fine to sit for a few minutes longer

3.While the giant couscousotto simmers, bring the basil water to the boil. Add the green vegetables boil for 3-4 minutes or until just tender. Put a colander in your sink. Drain the vegetables. Return them to the pan. Sauté for 10-20 seconds, and then turn off the heat

4.Add 6 tablespoons of pistou to the giant couscous. Gently fold it in. If you like the consistency to be a bit saucier, add hot water, 1 tbsp at a time until you are happy. Toss the vegetables with the remaining pistou (approximately 1 tbsp). Season to taste. Serve the vegetables on top of the giant couscous

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