Curried Couscous Salad
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Creating and producing recipes for this blog on the road is a bit trickier than I had originally thought. I realized that once the days shortened, I didn’t have much light (or any, for that matter) to take photos as I cooked our meals each evening.
Now that we’re in Patagonia, I no longer have an excuse! The sun rises around 5:30 each morning and the sky finally turn dark around 11. It’s like being in Sweden all over again.
Except that the last thing I want to do at the end of a long day of cycling is think about a meal for the blog. And then photograph it. Most of the time, I create, photograph and publish these recipes when we’re taking some time off. This gives more more time to test them and photograph in better light.
My mom has been making a variation of this curried couscous salad for several years. It’s an easy vegan staple for her to make when Dave and I visit my parents and it’s both delicious and filling. As a bonus, the grain base is interchangeable. We haven’t found couscous in many parts of the world where we’ve traveled, so I’ll sub quinoa, which makes it a great gluten-free option. I’ve also subbed millet before and it turned out delicious.
I asked my mom for the recipe during our tour and made my own amendments, depending on the availability of foods. I’ll add or subtract ingredients as I find them, but I’ve found that this particular version uses items that I’ve been able to find in nearly every European country we visited, and I suspect the same for South America.
Other than overnight oats for breakfast, this is, without a doubt, my most frequently made recipe of our tour. You may notice a variety of photos of this salad. The reason for that is due to the fact that I’ve made it so many times and when you find beautiful rainbow carrots at a farmers’ market in Slovenia and the lighting in your room is perfect, well, you just have to take a photo.
This recipe is so simple and so easy to make that I’ll make it for both lunch and dinner. The couscous cooks in our insulated Klean Kanteen food canister while we ride and other than grating the carrots, slicing an onion, and cutting a lemon in half, there’s little else to prepare. I don’t even boil the water for the couscous – I simply ask a restaurant to put hot water an inch above the top of the couscous, seal the canister, and go on our way. Or, I can simply fill it with water from the tap and go on my way. Couscous is magical in that regard.
You can toast the cashews and pepitas if you like – and I do recommend it – but if you don’t feel like getting out your stove for the evening, just toss everything together and it tastes just as delightful.
Remember, all of these recipes are use what you have available to you, wherever in the world you may be. In the US, we can find practically anything we want, anytime of the year, anywhere we are. That’s not the case around the world and it can sometimes take some creativity to create similar meals to what I’m used to preparing at home.
And this one is incredibly versatile.
Suggested substitutions for when you can’t find these exact ingredients:
- For the grains: if you can’t find couscous, use quinoa (which will cook faster if soaked), or millet.
- If you can’t find cashews, try Brazil nuts, chopped almonds, or walnuts
- No dried cranberries? You can find raisins everywhere, or dried currants would be a great substitution.
- Pepitas can be expensive or tough to find around the world. You can use sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, or sesame seeds as an alternative.
This curried couscous salad comes together in minutes with very little effort. And it is SO so good.
This curried couscous salad comes together effortlessly. The couscous cooks itself in an insulated canister and the ingredients are mostly found just about anywhere you may find yourself, but if they're not, feel free to substitute for what you can find.
- 1 cup couscous
- 1 ½ cups boiling water
- 2 carrots grated
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- ¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins
- ⅓ cup pepitas toasted, if preferred
- ⅓ cup cashews toasted, if preferred
- ¼ cup lemon juice from 1-2 lemons, depending on size
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 T curry powder
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- In the morning, fill an insulated canister with the couscous and water. Stir with a spoon to distribute the water. Cover and let sit while you ride or hike.
- When you’re ready to prepare the salad, empty the couscous into a bowl or your camping pot and add the carrots, onions, cranberries or raisins, pepitas, and cashews.
- If toasting the pepitas and cashews, get out your camp stove and set to medium heat. Add the cashews, pepitas and a pinch of salt to a pan and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes, until the cashews start to brown and the pepitas begin to pop.
- In the same canister you used to cook the couscous, add the dressing ingredients. Seal the lid and give it a good shake. Pour over the salad and gently toss. Serve and enjoy!