Monday, 28 June 2010

Lemony coucous with chermoula mushrooms

Like the spices sumac and za’atar that have recently begun to appear in the food columns of lifestyle magazines, it was only a matter of time that chermoula would make its appearance too, as either a dressing or a sauce. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with chermoula, Chermoula is a thick, powerful green herby paste. It is often made with a mixture of herbs namely coriander, cumin, lemon juice, olive oil, pickled lemons, garlic and salt. Its roots can be found in North Africa. Chermoula is used as marinade in Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking to coat either fish or seafood. You will find a number of recipes on the world wide web and cookbooks, but there is no fixed way of making chermoula. Everyone seems to make it according to their palette and each recipe seems to use different spices, but the two main ingredients that are constant are fresh coriander and garlic.
I flew from my parents nest in the mid 1990s for college and then eventually university. Although my mother had successfully instilled every domestic goddess skill there was to learn into me from a very early age, I was never sold on the idea of being 'a good housewife' or even remotely interested in being in the kitchen. In fact, I actively rebelled against these assumed gender roles and subsequently viewed such skills as a chore and a way to keep women in the house.

The only reason I found my way to the kitchen and more importantly the cooker, was the fact that I really missed my mothers cooking, the associated aromas, as well as certain flavours: fresh, herby, spicy, earthy, sour, zingy and so on. Whilst at Uni, I was always hankering for bold flavours to make my tongue feel alive and looking for ways to satisfy this urge and thus my interest in cooking was reignited, first for myself and then for others. It was around this time, that I also discovered the adventurous and experimental cook in me, and the hanging out at cookbook section and shops with vaguely kitchen related things became more than a habit.
All of this is way of saying how I first came across chermoula. I was introduced to it by Nadine Abensur, not literally of course but via the book Cranks Fast Food. I made it from scratch and served it with oven baked sweet potato chips. Oh my goodness - it was really flavourful – one I recommend especially if you love coriander. Chermoula is so versatile that it can be used to coat vegetables or even grains. This recipe is adapted from the chef Paul Gayler. Here the ‘chermoula’ gives mushrooms a tantalizing aroma as they cook. Now my husband is no fan of couscous, but this is the second couscous dish he has declared 'Delicious'.
Lemon Couscous and chermoula mushrooms
Serves 4
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 generous teaspoon dried chilli flakes
200g - 300g chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon harissa paste (for a harissa recipe follow this link)
400g can tomatoes, chopped
Small handful of fresh coriander, minced
200g couscous
250ml vegetable stock, boiling
Juice of ½ lemon or to taste
1 tablespoon Lemon pepper (see below for recipe)
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the couscous in a bowl with the vegetable stock and lemon juice, and cover. Leave for 5 minutes until the couscous has swollen. Fluff it up with a fork, cover again and leave for 5 more minutes. Add the lemon pepper, season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the cumin and chilli and cook for a few seconds before adding the mushrooms and harissa. Fry for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander. Serve with lemon couscous topped with the chermoula mushrooms.
When finely ground (unlike this one), dried lemon zest is a useful ingredient for flavouring grains and perking up other bland food.
Making Lemon pepper
Preheat the oven to gas mark 1. Peel 2 lemons with a potato peeler.
Spread the peel out on a clean baking sheet and bake for 1 hour until the skins are dried and shrivelled. Leave to cool.
When cool, place the peel in a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Store the lemon pepper in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Slightly adapted from Paul Gaylers Vegetarian Cookbook.


  1. Yum! How mouth-watering. :) I really want to make this, although I'd probably use shiitake mushrooms since chestnut 'shrooms and I don't get along. :P
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. This sounds delicious - its made me so hungry for morrocan flavors - im going to have to go and cut some coriander now for tomorrows lunch!

  3. Very delicious and aromatic lemony couscous.
    Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe and also for sharing the mehtod to make lemony pepper.

    What is harissa paste that you mentioned in the ingredients?Please let me know.

  4. That sounds just perfect for me Mangocheeks and I am drooling over your photos. The real test would be my hubby who really hates cous cous.

  5. Thats really interesting to see how you do the lemon pepper. I have never heard of it, but 'duh' of course that would work! I have some of my inlaws lemons at the ready so will do that, and also co-inciding with a middle eastern phase of cooking I am in at the moment.

  6. Everything you make looks so darn tasty! And lemon pepper - what a good idea!

  7. I'm very pleased that you stopped by my blog and left a comment. It has led me to your blog which is deliciously interesting. I'm looking forward to further exploration of past posts and look forward to future posts.


  8. Thanks Mo.
    :) I hope you don't mind me saying, but I don't think shiitake mushrooms would work well in this recipe, it would alter the flavour, but you can try. I'd recommend a flat mushroom or button mushrooms.

    Thanks freerangegirl.
    I'd really recommend this dish, its even good for a working lunch!

    Thanks Hannah of Adventures in Domestic Cooking

    Thank you Kiran.

    Sorry I should have put a link for the harissa ~Follow this link and you will find the recipe I make.

    Thanks Jacqueline.
    My husband always tells me he doesn't like couscous. I think its the thought of bland couscous, but everytime i've made a recipe with it, he's loved it. Who knows your husband is just waiting to be converted and this could be the recipe.

  9. Thanks cityhippyfarmgirl.
    {smil} like you I had not heard of 'lemon pepper' until I read the recipe and the technique of making it at home, though mine is not so finely ground as it should be.

    I hope you get a chance to make some with the lemons from your inlaws when they are ready, just be careful not to overdo them!

    Thanks Bunny and the Wolf.

    {blush} Oh Thank you Funkbunny.

    Thanks Little Messy Missy said.

    Hello Bonnie of From the Kitchen.
    And Thank you. Thank you so much for your lovely and heartfelt comment. I am really humbled. Thank you. I hope you enjoy your exploration of past posts and new ones.

  10. This looks so good. Thanks for sharing. I've never tried chestnut mushrooms before. Thanks for the tip on making your own lemon pepper.

  11. Thanks Heather.
    I prefer chestnut mushrooms to button mushrooms.
    The lemon pepper is really worth making to jaz up bland food.

  12. The flavors in this dish sound very exotic, Mango. I love coriander so I will have to seek this one out. Very creative!

  13. looking at your photos - after thinking about food props lately - I realise that I one thing I love about this blog is your love of bold colours - which I think goes hand in hand with your love of bold flavours - can't even remember if I have had chermoula - I think I avoided it for a while because I thought it was too hot or something but I think I would love it without the coriander

  14. H Johanna,

    Thanks for your lovely comment.

    I did read your entry on food props. Very interesting. Got me thinking about the way I use things aroudn me for food photography. Recently I started using my husbands record collection (with his permission of course).

    Oh shame - chermoula is coriander based, without it I don't think it could be called chermoula, but isn't what they said about pesto!?


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