Chicken, chard and giant couscous soup

Chicken, chard and giant couscous soup

Mowie Kay

This soup started out as a collection of leftovers in my refrigerator – the first time I made it, the cooked chicken had a subtle aroma of bergamot (see Bergamot and Lemon Roast Chicken). Citrus delicately pervades the soup, but the harissa-style dressing really adds another dimension to the flavour. It’s a bit like adding pistou to minestrone.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 leeks, cut into thin rounds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lime, Finely grated zest
a bunch chard, leaves only, shredded
50g yellow beans, halved
50g runner beans, halved
1 litre well-flavoured chicken stock
200g cooked giant couscous
200g cooked chicken, torn into chunks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a few shavings parmesan, to serve (optional)

For the harissa dressing

Quantity Ingredient
25g fresh parsley leaves
10g fresh mint leaves
10g fresh coriander leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 green chilli, (optional)
1 tablespoon preserved lemon or lime, see recipe note
50ml olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
or 1 lime, juiced
a few fresh lemon verbena leaves, (optional)


  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole. When the butter has melted, add the leeks with a splash of water and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook very gently for 10 minutes, checking every so often, until tender and buttery. Add the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes, trying not to stir too much.
  2. Add the zest, chard leaves and beans, then pour over the stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes until the beans are tender, then add the couscous and chicken. Continue to simmer just to warm through.
  3. While the soup is simmering, make the harissa dressing. Simply put everything in a food processor and blitz until you have a fresh-looking green paste – you may have to thin with a little water if you are finding it recalcitrant. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.
  4. Serve the soup with spoonfuls of the dressing stirred in at the last minute, with a few shavings of Parmesan, if you like.

Preserved lemons (and other citrus)

  • This is extremely simple to do – it just requires a certain amount of patience. Simply top and tail the lemons (or limes, or Seville oranges – you need a fairly acidic fruit for this), then cut a deep cross through each one, almost – but not quite – to the base. Stuff each lemon with sea salt (around 2 teaspoons in each), then pack tightly into a sterilized preserving jar. Weigh the fruit down if possible – I find scalded muslin wrapped around traditional weights or a well-scrubbed tin works – then leave for a couple of days. Remove the weights, muddle the lemons a bit with a wooden spoon to try to release more juice (some will already have collected in the base of the jar), then top with freshly squeezed lemon juice until the lemons are completely covered. Seal, then leave to mature for at least 4 weeks. They can then be kept for over a year in the refrigerator once you have opened them.
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