Under the Mediterranean sun with this in my hand

This vegetable-cum- fruit was reviled to be poisonous. Peruvians called it ‘Peruvian Apple’, the French referred to it as the ‘love apple’ of ‘golden apple’. That is, until the 18th century, when having travelled the waters from Peru to the shores of Naples, then a part of Spain, reaching northwards to the rest of Europe, the tomato has invaded most of European cuisine, and of course the world. It is said Cortes, the Spanish conquistador, brought the fruit after conquering ancient Mexico. Others say the Genoese Christopher Columbus was the first to introduce it to the Spanish Court.

According to Wikipedia ‘…it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes.’ And for culinary purposes it has indeed proved to be a versatile vegetable, err, fruit, um …fruitable. Ah never mind.

Summer is almost at an end in some parts of the world, and to enjoy tomatoes is to have it raw, stewed, bottled, pickled, dried, fried, chopped, pureed, processed or baked. And used extensively in Mediterranean cooking, I have kept a recipe through the years, it’s page now yellowed at the corners, with the occasional tomato sauce stains and oil patches. It turned out at the time to be an easy enough recipe. But as with most recipes, it is subject to interpretation, and the original has long since been devoured by time.

And so the sun beats down, and to have a bowl of this with some ouzo… sigh


chicken couscous

1 Chicken, cut into portions

4 oz chickpeas (garbanzos), boiled and drained

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 white onion, sliced

2 carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise

1 10 oz can whole peeled tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped

12 oz couscous

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter, unsalted

salt and pepper

1 lemon, quartered

  1. In a bowl, mix couscous with the same amount of water and some olive oil
  2. Stir and let it absorb the liquid for 15 minutes
  3. In a stock pot, fry chicken pieces in olive oil until lightly brown on all sides
  4. Add sliced onion and chopped garlic, toss around for a minute, then add the tomato puree. Stir to coat all the chicken pieces
  5. Add clean water until it just covers the chicken
  6. Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for 10 minutes
  7. Add the chickpeas (garbanzos), carrot. Add the crushed peeled tomatoes, and let simmer
  8. Transfer couscous to a small holed colander and place atop the simmering chicken stew. Steam for 20-25 minutes until cooked through
  9. Remove colander and add some butter. With wooden spoons, or your hands, fluff the couscous. Season with salt
  10. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add parsley, stir, then remove stock pot from heat
  11. Ladle couscous on plate. Top with chicken, vegetable and some of the sauce. Garnish with a lemon quarter for juicing