Tuesday, 25 May 2010

From Morocco with love

My husband is a bit sad at the moment. A book of his newspaper columns is being published this month and someone just wrote a really, really mean review of it.

It's not like he's not used to people being mean to him. He'd never complain about it publicly because he knows that's just what happens when you put yourself out there: people crap all over you. And, as he always says, it's not like he doesn't give people a kicking all the time - it's not like he's not, basically, just asking for it. But, all the same, just in private, it brought him down a bit.

It pains me when my husband is down, because he's usually such an irrepressible, bouncy, energetic, bomb-proof chatterbox. It's usually me moping around nursing this little hurt or that little slight - I am Eeyore to his Tigger.

So last night, I thought I would host for him a sort-of-morrocan feast in the garden, with mood lighting and very spicy food. Maybe even a tablecloth; definitely some strong drink. I even decorated our vine with glass hanging tealight holders - a wedding present from The Pescetarian:

One of my husband's favourite restaurants is an old place in the south of France called Chez Grandmere, which serves merguez sausages, carrots and celery cooked in a thick broth and cous-cous cooked in stock.

There's no way I was going to be able to accurately render the cooking at CG, where they cook over hot scented charcoal, working to Grandmere's secret recipes.

But I was going to do my interpretation of it, with lovely merguez sausages purchased this weekend from the Twleve Green Acres butcher stall at the Parliament Hill Farmer's Market, carrots and celery boiled nearly-whole (to retain their sweetness) in a strong chicken stock and a moroccan couscous thing with sultanas and pine nuts and a minted yoghurt.

I imagine that most of you will be weirded out by the whole vegetables, but they do really bring something earthy and exciting to a dinner like this. If you want to do it, choose smallish carrots and cook them whole, like Fergus Henderson does, in order to retain their sweetness. It's important that you cook them in a proper chicken stock - bought concentrate won't do (and you know how slack I am about that kind of stuff).

For a convincing morroccan-tasting couscous add to your dry grains:

A pinch ground cumin
A pinch ground coriander
A pinch paprika
sultanas OR chopped dried apricots
toasted pine nuts

Give this dry mixture a stir and then pour on your boiling water or stock from cooking your vegetables and leave to cook. When ready, sprinkle over a handful of chopped coriander.

I mean, it probably takes more than a dinner to cheer you up after a really bad review but at least he knows that someone loves him.


  1. YUM. I'm sure Giles will be right as rain soon. xo

  2. I think it seems to hurt more when people are critical of the ones you love... food is the greatest healer and clearly you're supporting him through his stomach! x

  3. I've pre-ordered that book , been enjoying your Giles writing for some time now . Sod the bad review.

  4. Bless you! What a lovely thing to say. I do hope you enjoy the book.

    It's best read not cover-to-cover in one go (it can get a bit overwhelming) but great to read a chapter while you're waiting for the kettle to boil or something. xxx

  5. E, I just realised who your husband is. (i'm either REALLY slow or you keep it well hidden) and I've got to say I totally love his work (in print and on screen) and you can tell him from me (humble Londoner moved north) that he's a genius as a writer and a presenter and a lover of food, which is totally clear from his writing. and um... I could go on but it'll all come out wrong and I don't want to sound daft... go YOU!!

  6. Don't think we don't notice how much you love calling him husband now! Tlc solves most of life's problems.

  7. Haha I probably will devour it in one go and then go back to it bit by bit , I daresay my other half will get it read out to him! I'll give it a review on Amazon when I get it :) I'll make sure it's a good one .

  8. Very cute. I do an Irish day for my boyfriend when he's miserable, complete with steak and Guinness pie, Nigella's Guinness cake and The Dubliners on a loop! He is also a reviewer (music) and he knows that is just to make a living. Being an author is the big one.

  9. Ahh, your Irish day sounds really nice. Yeah the writers/reviewers war is one with no winners... xxx

  10. Just because the Reviewer got a little bored of Giles rants doesn't mean it was a bad review. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell was repetitive, but I was in tears laughing through most of it. (on a plane no less)
    I am sure his fans (me being one, going back years now) will be pleased as punch with the book.
    You are very kind to keep the angry little bugger happy. Don't go too far though, we all love that part of him.

  11. I like your deployment of the phrase "little bugger". Very British.

    I think he's feeling better about it all. Time, and merguez sausages, are great healers. x