Roasted Figs with Aromatic Couscous

This is not the post I'm supposed to be writing. I'm supposed to be blogging about my recent jam making endeavours but I've unfortunately come undone with this one because of a little (not unknown but unknown to me!) fact I recently discovered. As recently as last night when I was researching a certain ingredient I had used to 'enhance' my homemade conserve - and it is a conserve because it uses the whole fruit and doesn't set like a jelly. How do I know this? That's right, I researched it in order to present to you a wonderfully informed blog post all about the differences between a conserve, jam, jelly and compote. It was going to be so good. You see, this Vegan melarkey is a work in progress. You learn something new everyday, so they say, but when you've decided to embark on a Vegan lifestyle you learn about ten new things everyday. Some of these little discoveries will completely ruin your brilliant blog post and put certain products off limits forever.

Some of you may already have guessed what the ingredient in question is. I mentioned it a couple of posts back when I had first foraged my blackberries and could not contain my excitement at the prospect of my blackberry trilogy, hoping they would be amongst my best posts to date. Now though, I feel silly, because it was so obvious that Mead wine is not suitable for vegans. I knew it was sweet but honestly it never occurred to me that honey was the culprit in making this historical drink so delectable.

So, here I am. In Cornwall. Unable to take part in any mead or pasty action. It seems ludricrous but at the same time I'm fairly unaffected by it. It's a kind of shrug your shoulders, ah well, situation. Thankfully, I hadn't yet tried my blackberry and mead conserve, so my Vegan status remains intact, and there are plenty of willing takers;) I gave a pot to Matt and Michelle, which is what the photo is of - I sterilized old jam jars, I used a magazine clipping to cover the top and secured it with a plastic band from a bunch of spring onions. A truly homemade affair.

After all that I really needed a sugary fix but as it was dinnertime (it was 11o'clock again - will our bodyclocks ever sort themselves out?) I needed to combine it with something savoury - I don't think hubbie would've appreciated cookies for supper! I had just recently purchased my first jar of blackstrap mollasses and thought this was the perfect time to try these badboys out - I think I needed the iron too. I'd also found some perfectly ripe figs in Sainsburys. Whilst we try to get most of our shopping from Farmers Markets and local businesses we have to do a supermarket run too. We made the effort to drive to Truro, because of all the supermarkets in Cornwall Sainsbury's is the most vegan friendly; they label their products clearly. The Co-Operative are getting there but Sainsbury's is still tops.

Back to the figs. I'm crazy about them. To me they are pure luxury, a real indulgence and exactly what the doctor ordered after my conserve fiasco. I went with the couscous because it's easy and I needed something pain free although I do feel slightly guilty giving you yet another couscous dish in such a short space of time. I won't lie, the pomegranates are an homage to Nigella. I've had a tough time with that woman lately but after viewing the first episode of her latest series Kitchen she's back in my good books. I know it's very hard for people to fathom a vegan enjoying Nigella but I make no apologies or excuses. I've already veganized dozens of her recipes and the ones featured in this weeks episode have given me loads of ideas. Obviously, I don't straight up copy her dishes but there's enough delicious content in there to inspire me.

I'm happy to report that the figs were the perfect cure for my disappointment in the mead stakes and I've found my new favourite ingredient in blackstrap mollasses - holy hell that stuff is good. I have two figs left and I've got my eye on this fabulous recipe from the ever wonderful Vegalicious. I am, once more, a very happy vegan x

roasted figs with aromatic couscous

for the couscous:

1 cup couscous

handful golden sultanas

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 coriander

1/2 paprika

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 cup frozen broad beans

5 or 6 cherry tomatoes

1/4 cucumber

1/2 red onion

1/2 pomegranate

small handful pumpkin seeds

handful chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

for the figs:

2 ripe figs

1 tsp blackstrap molasses

1 tsp cider vinegar

glug of extra virgin olive oil

for the dressing:

1/2 cup hummus

juice of 1/2 lemon

black pepper

pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/390 degrees fahrenheit.

Place the couscous in a large bowl along with the spices and sultanas. Pour over one cup of boiled water, give it a stir and cover. Leave to stand for 10-15 mins.

Place broad bean in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Allow to stand for several minutes before draining and then peel.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes, de-seed the cucumber and chop into small chunks. Finely dice the red onion.

Quarter the figs. Combine the molasses, vinegar and oil and drizzle over the figs. Place in oven for 10-12 mins. You may have some marinade leftover so just pour it into the couscous.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, add the broad beans, tomatoes, cucumber and onion. Finely chop the parsley and add to couscous ensuring it is thoroughly mixed. Halve the pomegranate and release the seeds by either tapping on it with a rolling pin or as I did easing them out with a sharp knife. Sprinkle in the pumpkin seeds (next time I'll toast them), season and give it a good stir.

Make the sauce by combining the hummus, lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper. Squeeze a little of the lemon juice over the couscous if you wish.

Put a couple of pittas in the oven to heat through.

Take the figs out of the oven. Plate up the couscous placing the figs on top, drizzle the remaining molasses sauce over the figs. Pour the hummus sauce around the figs but not on them. Cut the pittas in half to serve.

Indulge. Now! As you can see from the photos, I'd already started 'indulging' before deciding to take a pic;)

p.s. for those of you interested in making blackberry conserve the ingredients and method are as follows:

5 cups blackberries

2 1/2 cups organic unrefined granulated sugar

juice 1 lemon

1 small bottle elderberry mead wine (obviously optional!)

put everything into a pot, bring to a boil, cover. Let it boil for up to an hour, periodically mashing it with a masher and making sure it isn't sticking to the bottom of the pot. Sterilise the jars by washing them in very hot water and allowing them to dry in a moderately hot oven - 120 degrees celsius/250 fahrenheit for at least 20mins. In the final 5/10mins place the lids in too. Pour the hot conserve into the warm jam jars, secure the lid (the popper on top should go down - you will hear a loud pop so don't panic!). Let it cool before giving it to anyone - a day at least. Label and store.