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Spiced Apricot Couscous

from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater, photographed by Jonathan Lovekin “The apricot takes nicely to a little spice, and not just the sweet cinnamon stick and pinks-scented clove but the cardamom pod and chile too. All the flavors it was brought up with.” So writes Slater in this recipe that typifies the easy grace he brings to his dishes. So easy, one hopes he wouldn’t mind me suggesting that absent fresh apricots, you can substitute a small handful of chopped dried ones, so you can make this dish at any time.


  • large shallots - 2 or a medium onion
  • butter - a thick slice
  • half a cinnamon stick
  • green cardamom pods - 6
  • dried chile flakes - a good pinch
  • apricots - 7 ounces 200g
  • golden raisins - a handful
  • for the couscous
  • couscous - scant 1 cup 150g
  • olive oil - a tablespoon
  • hot vegetable stock - 1 cup 250ml harissa paste - 2 tablespoons
  • a preserved lemon
  • cilantro - a small bunch


  • Peel and chop the shallots, then cook them in the butter over medium heat for ten minutes or so, until soft and golden. Stir in the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, chile flakes, and a grinding of salt and black pepper. Halve, pit, and chop the apricots and add to the pan with the raisins and a cupful of hot water. Leave to simmer gently for ten to fifteen minutes, until the apricots are truly soft.
  • Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl with the olive oil. Pour over the hot stock and cover with a lid. leave for ten minutes, then fluff up the grains with a fork, stirring in the harissa paste and the finely chopped skin of the lemon (you can discard the inner pulp, if you wish). Fold the cooked apricots into the couscous, then chop the cilantro and fold it in too.