Feeding the Soul

This wonderful couscous salad, filled with sultanas and squashed tomatoes, has been a constant source of reassurance in my life, particularly during the two years I lived in self-catered residential accommodation.

I have had a tumultuous relationship with food since I was 11. In my early high school years I began to despise my body – the large breasts, the belly rolls and the thunder thighs only grew. This contempt quickly escalated into a full-blown eating disorder, whereby I experienced extreme anxiety when eating with friends and family. To compensate for not eating with others I would binge eat foods with high calories for comfort. This cycle of binging and starving perpetuated a long-term lifestyle of unhealthy eating and cooking. The gluttonous voice in my head would echo my mother, who would tell me off for eating the last of the biscuits or leaving chocolate wrappers hidden in crevasses. I felt like a pig, a monster fuelled with disgusting gluttony.

During this past year, my eating disorder and social anxiety swallowed my vigour for life. The social dynamic of self-catered accommodation centres on sharing in the joys and struggles of cooking and eating together. Unable to enjoy and thrive in this environment, I retreated into my shell – my room – where my eating disorder isolated me from everything, but most importantly, my closest friends.

Fortunately, I returned from this terrible haze when a female friend cooked me a collection of meals to be frozen. This gesture of kindness was one of the most generous things anyone had ever done for me. I cannot thank her enough, as it was this kindness that re-sparked my appreciation for food and cooking.

This recipe for couscous salad assisted me on my journey to regaining joy from food. It is a recipe that my older brother enjoys cooking at family gatherings. It is an innately social and colourful dish which has always provided me with joy and nourishment. This humble salad yearns to be shared and can be eaten anywhere and at any time.

Couscous salad

Ingredients:

200g couscous (plain or pearl)

200ml of water, leftover vegetable stock or tinned tomato juice

½ red onion, diced

75g sultanas

15 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ capsicum, diced

15 green beans, trimmed

½ pumpkin, chopped into squares

1 tbsp of oil

Method:

  1.     Add water/leftover vegetable stock/tinned tomato juice to the dry couscous in a large bowl.
  2.     Leave couscous to soak for 10 – 15 minutes.
  3.     In the meantime, boil the pumpkin for 10 – 15 minutes, or until soft. Then lightly coat in oil and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
  4.     Using a large saucepan sauté the red onion, beans and capsicum in oil until slightly caramelised.
  5.     Add cherry tomatoes and stir to create a stew-like consistency.
  6.     After the couscous has been soaked add it to the vegetables in the saucepan and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
  7.     After the pumpkin is golden and adequately roasted, cut into small segments and add to the saucepan.
  8.     Remove saucepan from heat and leave to cool.
  9.     Transfer couscous salad to a large bowl and stir through the sultanas.