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Moroccan pumpkin couscous with a prune and onion confit

I'm sure this made up combination doesn't exist elsewhere. The prune confit is traditionally served with lamb but it is far too good to miss out on so try it here. The pumpkin is a nod in the direction of the wonderful, elaborate Moroccan Couscous Royale. Combining the two notions creates an unbelievably exotic, sweet dish best eaten in moderation and ideally followed by the inevitable green salad.

Serves 6

For the prune and onion confit
500 g/1lb 2 oz small round shallots, peeled
900 g/2lb pumpkin from a very good Italian orange-fleshed pumpkin with a green carapace, try Crown Prince, or 900 g/2lb butternut squash
2 tbsp light olive oil or sunflower oil, plus extra for basting
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A dash of tabasco
A dash of soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 garlic cloves
400 g/14 oz soft prunes, stones left in
A handful of whole almonds, blanched and skins slipped off

For the couscous
500 g/1lb 2 oz couscous
Boiling water to cover
A pinch of saffron
Bouillon powder (Marigold is great)
A knob of butter
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
First plunge the shallots in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute, as this makes them so much easier to peel and saves your tears for when you might really need them. Set aside.
Prepare the pumpkin or butternut squash by removing the seeds and cutting into about 18 crescents, 2-cm/1-inch thick. Baste them in olive oil, together with a little salt, pepper, tabasco, soy sauce, sugar and cinnamon.
Roast in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until browned and caramelised. Heat the olive oil in a pan or deep frying pan. Add the peeled shallots and fry them until they are brown and golden.
Season with a little salt and pepper and add the whole garlic cloves, then add the prunes and enough water to just cover. Simmer on quite a fierce heat, until it is all absorbed, adding water a little at a time, until the shallots become golden and caramelised all the way through but still maintain much of their shape, and the prunes are soft with some dissolving into the sauce. The whole thing should take about 20-25 minutes. A few minutes before the end, add the blanched almonds and heat.
Reconstitute the couscous in a volume of boiling water roughly equal to its weight, seasoned with the saffron first as well as a good pinch of bouillon. When the water is fully absorbed, fluff up with two forks and melt a knob of butter through it. There must be no lumps whatsoever, so use your fingers too if necessary.
Transfer the couscous to a tagine or large plate and cover with the prune and onion confit and roasted pumpkin crescents on top too, with any remaining juices poured in. Scatter with a little very finely chopped parsley and serve.

Source: The Cranks Bible

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