do you under-utilise this common ingredient?
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]

broccoli with couscous-2 broccoli with couscous-3

When it comes to Asian ingredients, you’d have to class soy sauce as one of the most common. It was the only Asian sauce to grace my mothers pantry when I was growing up in the country. In my travels, while I have found it difficult to find oyster or fish sauce, most places will stock a bottle of soy. I even remember seeing a bottle in a very spartan, excuse-for-a-supermarket when I was travelling in Cuba – surely one of the saddest food countries in the world.

But it’s only been in recent years that I’ve begun to experiment with using soy for more than Asian style dishes, like egg fried rice. Actually I can remember the very first time the thought even occurred to me. I was reading Skye Gyngell’s wonderful first book, A Year in My Kitchen and had got up to her essential ‘toolbox’ recipe for cooking lentils. There were two ingredients that really surprised me. First was red wine vinegar, but then I guess she was just making a dressing for the lentils in the bowl, perfect sense. The second though, was soy sauce. WTF?

So I did the only sensible thing and immediately began making plans to cook up a batch of Skye’s lentils. OK, so as a confessed lentil-addict, I hardly needed the excuse, but it was there. Needless to say, the lentils were a HUGE success. The soy just added something almost inexplicable to the earthy, wholesome little buttons. It added more than just saltiness. It brought them to life. It deepened their complexity. It really beefed up their ‘umami’, the savoury sense of taste. Lesson learned.

Since then, I’ve use soy and a tin of tomatoes instead of vegetable stock with great results in a simple carrot soup. It’s become my favourite seasoning ingredient in a simple vinaigrette of sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, as features in my soon-to-be-released book: 5 ingredients | 10 minutes. It was a key ingredient in my winter vegetarian favourite braised mushrooms. And played a supporting role to boost the flavour of my vegetarian home baked beans. It also made an appearance in the onion gravy for a classic bangers and mash.

I’ve even eaten it with vanilla icecream (you only need a few drops to add a wonderfully intense caramelly flavour to your icecream – try it yourself). Actually soy in desserts is definitely an unexplored territory for me – watch this space.

But if that’s a bit too out-there for you, why not start with this couscous and broccolini salad. I used to always use chicken stock to flavour my couscous, but a spoonful of soy sauce is far more cost effective and, I think, even more delicious, adding the savouriness without completely taking the other flavours hostage in a barrage of chicken-ness.

broccoli with couscous

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
couscous & broccolini salad

serves 2

You can pretty much use broccoli and broccolini interchangeably in this recipe. I have a slight preference for broccolini because I love their long asparagus-like stems. Actually asparagus would make a lovely addition to or a substitution for the broccolini.

The almonds add a bit of nutty crunch but you could easily go without. It’s delicious warm, but also wonderful chilled, so feel free to make extra for work lunches.

This is wonderful as a simple main course for lunch or dinner. I’ve also used it as a base for a side salad, replacing the almonds with a bunch of coarsley chopped flat leaf parsley – kinda like a broccoli tabbouleh – just the thing to serve with babaganoush.

1 bunch broccolini, chopped
1/2 cup couscous
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
small handful flaked almonds

1. Bring a cup of water to boil in a medium saucepan.

2. Add broccoli and cook for 4 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat. Add couscous, soy, vinegar and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Stir to combine and season.

4. Stand, covered for another 4 minutes.

5. Fluff couscous with a fork. Taste and season.

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