A star anise infused cous cous with broad beans, blood orange and feta

March 21, 2011

I’m really happy with this one. It’s a cous cous salad and, as you know, I make a lot of those. This one is different. No, really. Why? Instead of using plain old water to cook the grains I infused it with thyme and star anise and it rocked!!!! To be honest, I stole the idea from Dylan Mc Grath. I had an absolutely amazing dinner in Rustic Stone last week which included a whole sea bream they had on special. One of the things it came with was a kind of grain risotto. I asked what was in it and the waiter listed off about 10 things including thyme and star anise. These two struck me as the place to start (after all I don’t have 10 comis at my beck and call so simplicity tends to be key). All it took was sticking some thyme and a few star anise in the water I steamed the beans for the salad in then using that water to cook the cous cous. Genius.

Star anise, if you don’t know, it is a spice (that is actually star-shaped) that hails from China originally. Although they’re not related, it has the same flavour as anise due to the presence of something called anethole. It’s used all over Asia and is one of the spices in Chinese 5 spice which I’m a big fan of. I love it not least because it’s so pretty. In the past I’ve used it to decorate kitchen shelves, sticking it on with blu tack then leaving it to  send out random bursts of perfume (the state of my current kitchen and its shelves will not be mentioned this week but the end is in sight!!!!)

So, apart from all this spicy loveliness what else is in the salad? Well, first off there’s blood orange. It nearly the end of their season so I had to use them. Then we’ve got broad beans which I always think of as a high summer staple. The Spanish variety have been available for a while and I finally weakened and got some this week. I love broad beans. Some of my absolute favourite dishes are made with them. The root veg that we’ve had all winter are now on the wane and we’re at that crossover stage also known as “the hungry gap” . The Irish summer crops are still a way off (Marc Michel says a month or so for his stuff while we’ve already had the first of this year’s gorgeous baby leaves from the Healy’s) so we supplement our Irish stocks with some Spanish goodies. Finally there’s a generous measure of salty feta which just seems to set the whole thing off perfectly.

Star anise infused cous cous with broad beans, feta and blood oranges

You’ll need:                                                                                           

300gr broad beans shelled

3 star anise

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup whole meal cous cous 

100gr feta

1 blood orange peeled and cut into segments then sliced

Olive Oil

Peeled blood orange

Begin by podding the beans. I usually steam them and this time I added 1 teaspoon dried thyme and 3 star anise to the steaming water. The beans take about 2 minutes to steam then you add 2 cups of water to the liquid left over and gently heat it all up. Let the beans cool and while this is going on put the cous cous on a dry pan and begin toasting it over a medium heat until it turns golden. When the grains have changed colour, turn the heat down and add the liquid along with the star anise and thyme. Cook over a lowish heat until the liquid has been absorbed then turn off the heat. Continue stirring adding some olive oil so the grains don’t stick. Let the cous cous cool down while you prepare the other ingredients. Pop the beans out of their skins and then throw them into the cous cous along with the orange slices and the feta. Mix together and taste for seasoning. I didn’t add any salt because the feta seemed to give a big enough hit but you may want a little. We ate this sitting on the back door step in a blaze of sunshine. Roll on the summer!!!!!

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