Leek, Carrot and Cous Cous Soup

I’m making cous cous often at the moment. Apart from making it to go with tagine, it’s natural partner, it is great in soup, a way of adding extra interest and inspiring unexpected seasoning but good too with commonplace soup ingredients. It was a starting point for this soup, although, like most soups it began with onion followed by leek and potato, carrots and diced tomato with a handful of herbs right at the end. It’s almost a stew, certainly a fork and spoon soup which could be enhanced with scraps of ham or cooked chicken. I’m assuming, incidentally, that you don’t have leftover cous cous and have started from scratch with that.

Serves 4
Prep: 25 min
Cook: 35 min

50g cous cous
1 litre chicken stock (cube is fine)
pinch saffron threads, if possible
1 lemon
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 onion
25g butter
1 garlic clove
200g trimmed leek
3 carrots
1 potato
3 tomatoes
½ tbsp flour
a few leftover cooked beans if you have them or peas (optional)
handful of flat leaf parsley or coriander

Place the cous cous in a bowl. Heat up 150ml of the given quantity of stock, stir in a pinch of saffron (if you have it), add a squeeze of lemon and splash of olive oil. Stir to mix then pour this over the cous cous. Leave to hydrate. It will remain sloppy but that doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Melt the butter in remaining olive oil in a spacious, lidded pan and stir in the onion. Cook gently, stirring often, so it softens without browning. Crack the garlic, flake away the papery skin and slice very thinly. Trim and slice the leeks in 2cm thick pennies. Agitate the leeks in a bowl of water to loosen any dirt. Drain. Stir the leeks into the softening onion with the garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and leave to cook for about 10 minutes while you scrape and thinly slice the carrots. Peel the potato, cut into dolly mixture size dice, rinse and drain. Boil the kettle. Immerse the tomatoes in boiling water, count to 40, drain and whip off the skin. Quarter lengthways and chop into dice. If you have leftover beans, chop them into short lengths. Sift ½ tbsp flour over the leeks and stir vigorously until disappeared. Add remaining stock, increase the heat and stir as it comes up to boil, ensuring the liquid is lump free. Add carrots, potatoes, forked up sloppy cous cous and simmer, the pan partially covered, for about 10 minutes until both are tender. Add tomatoes and their juices, beans or peas if you have either, reheat, season to taste with salt and lemon juice and serve now or later stirred at the last moment with chopped flat leaf parsley or coriander leaves.