RECIPE: Squash gratin, Swiss chard and couscous

This is a hearty, hearty mid-week dish that provides the recommended vegetable quota for five days.

October is always a good month for gourds, especially with Halloween pumpkins. I used a butternut for this, but any kind will do, as long as it’s thinly sliced.

It’s also nice to see Swiss chard recovering after the extremely dry weather this summer when it hardly grew at all. I also used the last few tomatoes, but a can will do if you don’t have one from the garden to use.

Smoked harissa paste adds a deeper flavor but if not available, use regular harissa plus two teaspoons of smoked paprika. For three to four.

Baked squash, chard and couscous are a warming fall dish. Credit: Marshford Organic


270g squash

140g onion

250g Swiss chard (about 140g leaves and 110g stems)

10g garlic

Half a stalk of celery

Small jar of chickpeas approximately 250 drained weight

2 tablespoons smoked harissa paste

5 tablespoons of olive oil

250g couscous

1 egg

75g grated cheese

salt to taste

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Baked squash, chard and couscous are a warming fall dish.  Credit: Marshford Organic
Baked squash, chard and couscous are a warming fall dish. Credit: Marshford Organic

First prepare the vegetables. Peel and cut the squash into very thin slices – I used about 30. Thinly slice the onion and celery and dice the garlic.

Separate the green leaves from the stems of the chard. Make ribbons with the leaves and cut the stems so they are about the same width as the chickpeas.

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the stem pieces. Place them cut side down in a heatproof dish, cover and microwave for five minutes. As soon as they have cooled sufficiently, remove the skin and chop the flesh.

Put a pot of water on high heat and when it comes to a boil, put the slices of squash in it. Blanch for two minutes, timed from when boiling resumes. Remove the slices with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Reserve the cooking juices. Drain once cooled and set aside.

Place the couscous in a bowl and add one cup of the squash cooking liquid (which should be hot) and two tablespoons of olive oil. Stir well and cover with a plate. Note – this is less liquid than what is normally used as it will absorb the liquid from the sauce.

Put the onions with two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and stir and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic, celery and chard stems and just enough cooking liquid to cover and cook until tender.

Add the ribbons of chard leaves and cook for a few more minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and smoked harissa paste. Stir until well blended and season with salt to taste.

Set the oven to 180°C.

Butter a baking dish (I used a 24cm square pan) and spread a third of the couscous on the bottom. Cover with a layer of squash pieces and, using a slotted spoon to leave the liquid in the pan, cover with half of the chard, tomato and chickpea mixture. Add another layer of squash on top, then the rest of the chard mixture, followed by the last squash.

Beat the egg in a small bowl and add the cooking juices. Mix with the remaining couscous and spread over the squash layer. Sprinkle with grated cheese and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and cover.

Bake for 30 minutes then remove the lid. Bake another 15 minutes, then serve.

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