You know how the saying goes: breakfast is a big deal.
(Er, maybe I should skip the quoting and stick with cooking.)
So when a good friend of mine asked me to post a breakfast idea - a sweet and savoury morning meal, to be precise - I wanted to share something worthy of Big Deal status.
And, after an appropriate amount of hemming, hawing, and experimental trials with taste-testers, I’ve got it: a simple, speedy, nutritious, delicious, sweet and savoury meal that, if you’re like me, you’ll be eating anytime of day for the rest of eternity.
Enter: Breakfast Couscous.
In breakfast-sized bites, here’s why I think you’re going to love this:
1. It fits the bill! A semolina-based grain-like dish, couscous is traditionally used in savoury North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine as a base for soaking up stews. But, being super-nutritious, ridiculously easy to prepare, and eager to mingle with other flavours, it’s exactly what you want to start your day with. Especially when you pair it with, say, sweet spices, toasted nuts and dried-fruit compote!
2. It’s quick and easy! Making couscous is as easy as pouring cereal and milk into a bowl and takes the same amount of active time. If you’re like me and wake up with just enough time to get ready for the day, you’ll be happy to hear that everything can be made in advance. You can even portion it out ahead of time so that all you have to do come morning is grab and go!
3. It’s infinitely adaptable. Want to skip Step 1 of the couscous recipe? Go for it! Not into the spices or dried fruits I’ve listed? Switch it up or skip the compote entirely and top your couscous with nuts and fresh fruit. Worried about wielding knives before noon? Use fruits - fresh or dried - that don’t need to be chopped. Want richness? Go all in and use butter and milk. You get the idea!
4. It beats a box of cereal any day! The refined sugars and preservatives you find in most prepared breakfast products aren’t most-important-meal-of-the-day materials. Couscous, on the other hand, is free of sugar and grouchy fats, and is packed with protein, fiber and all sorts of other nutritious things. The compote gets its sweetness, flavour, and a jolt of caffeine from things like fruit, honey, tea and fresh lemon juice. Combine the two, and you get a tasty meal that’ll keep you full and energized all the way until lunch, with no mono-di-tri-glyco-phospho-whatevers in sight!
5. It’s certified delicious. Well, by these guys at least! But I mean, when you’ve got a bowl of warm, cinnamon-infused sort-of-cereal, studded with bite-sized jewels of stewed fruit and topped with crunchy toasted almonds, how can you go wrong? And porridge-haters, fear not - couscous isn’t gloopy in the least. (Porridge-lovers: give this a try - I bet you’ll love it too! And I’m all about the gloop, so I’ve got something coming your way soon!
Now, I’m off to sort out my muddled mind with a bowl of couscous and a cup of good coffee - I hope you’ll join me!
Breakfast Couscous with Dried-Fruit Compote
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes ~2.5 cups of couscous and ~2 cups of compote (4 servings total)
Note: I’ve listed the couscous recipe first in case you want to skip the compote and serve your couscous with something else. But if you plan to make both, start the compote before you get on with the couscous!
2 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
1 cup couscous (whole wheat or regular)
1½ cups boiling water (or simmering milk, soy milk, or equivalent)
½ tsp cinnamon
1 large pinch of salt
Dried-fruit compote and toasted slivered almonds for serving
1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous and stir to coat. Cook over medium to medium-high, stirring frequently, until golden, roughly 2 minutes. (NOTE: This step is optional! It adds flavour for sure, but if you’re watching your waistline or the clock, or are topping the couscous with something super-flavourful, you can skip ahead to Step 2!)
2. Combine couscous, boiling water (or equivalent), cinnamon and salt.* Give everything a quick stir, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove lid, fluff couscous with a fork, dish out, and top with compote and toasted almonds!
*You can do this a couple ways. You can boil water (or equivalent) in a saucepan, remove the pan from the heat, quickly stir in the couscous and spices, cover and wait. Alternatively, you can put the couscous and spices in a heat-safe bowl, pour boiling liquid (say, from a kettle) into the bowl, quickly stir, cover and wait. Whatever works for you! Just be super-careful if you're adding hot liquid to a hot pan, as it'll steam like crazy and steam can burn!
1½ cups mixed dried fruit (I used apples, apricots, cherries and cranberries), chopped if large
1¼ cups water
1-2 tsp honey (optional)
1 black tea bag (English Breakfast, Orange Pekoe, or something similar)
3 tsp lemon juice
Combine fruit, water and honey in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until fruit has plumped and water is becoming syrupy, 8-10 minutes. Remove pan from the heat, drop in tea bag and let steep for about five minutes (while you make the couscous!). Remove tea bag, stir in lemon juice, and spoon compote over couscous!
Whether or not you give the couscous a try, remember to start your day off with a nutritious, delicious breakfast. Need ideas? Stay tuned - I’ve got another simple, satisfying and customizable breakfast recipe coming your way!
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