Celebrity square meals: The artist Jake Tilson's backstreet couscous

Serves eight

I am interested in why we cook the things we cook, the part food plays in our lives, and the cook's position within a family. By exploring my own gastronomic roots and influences I hope my book will act as a mirror to the reader. I really enjoy the act of cooking; it's a relaxing thing to do, and even shopping should be fun, not a chore.

This is a dish that encourages interpretation and invention. It's great with barbecues and can help revive any burnt meat or sausages. I assemble it with the assimilated memories of smoke-filled Tunisian restaurants in Paris and three memorable meals in a frenzied visit to Morocco in my youth. Couscous is the name for both the semolina grain and the dish itself.

5 carrots, sliced in rounds
5 courgettes, sliced in rounds
3 onions roughly chopped
3 large cabbage leaves, shredded
3 cups chickpeas, pre-cooked or canned
600ml chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3tbsp tomato purée and/or 400g can tomatoes, finely mashed
1 stick cinnamon
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp freshly ground cumin seeds
10 threads saffron
15 sprigs fresh coriander tied in a bunch
15 sprigs fresh parsley tied in a bunch

Although some cooks first fry the spices, onions and garlic until transparent, to achieve a backstreet Parisian/Tunisian-style vegetable stew, I adopt a nonchalant approach. Put all the ingredients in a large pan, cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes. Done. Serve with couscous grains and roasted or grilled meats.

Jake Tilson's 'A Tale of 12 Kitchens' is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20

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