My Family Table, A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking by Chef John Besh has received several very positive reviews, so I picked up a copy. The first recipe I made from it is this Couscous with Spicy Chicken, and it was very good, especially the couscous. This recipe calls for cooked chicken, so it is a good way to use up leftovers or you can cook the chicken ahead of time. The chicken is tossed in a spice blend and reheated. The couscous includes cabbage, carrots, scallions and turmeric.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Check your dry spices to make sure they don’t contain colour or anti-caking chemicals. If you don’t have homemade stock on hand (and who does, really?) use an all-natural stock such as Imagine brand. Make sure the butter does not contain colour—I use Gay Lea Unsalted Butter, which has a single ingredient: cream. It is easy to make harissa from scratch—the recipe is below.

Grind spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle

Toss cooked chicken with spices and oil

Saute vegetables for couscous

Fluff couscous to remove lumps

Couscous with spicy chicken


For the spice blend and chicken

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp red pepper flakes

½ tsp cinnamon


Freshly ground black pepper

1 roast chicken, cooked and cut into pieces

2 tbsp olive oil

For the couscous

2 tbsp vegetable oil

½ head cabbage, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced

2 cups couscous

1 tsp turmeric


2 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp butter

Freshly ground black pepper

Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped

Harissa (optional)


2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 chipotle in adobo, minced, plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground caraway

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For the spice blend, toast the ginger, fennel, coriander, red pepper and cinnamon in a small skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Besh urges you to stop and smell the toasting spices. Put the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and process to a fine powder.

Salt and pepper the chicken and toss in with the olive oil and spice blend in a large bowl. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until it is hot. Remember, you are just reheating the chicken; it should be already cooked through.

For the couscous, in a medium saucepan combine the oil, cabbage, carrots, green onions and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add the couscous with the turmeric and a pinch of salt. Stir to make sure all the grains are coated with oil, then add the broth.

Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, and cover. Let stand until the couscous is tender and the water is absorbed, 5-7 minutes. Fluff with a fork to make sure there are no lumps, then add the butter and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and add the mint.

Mound the couscous in a bowl and top with the spiced chicken. Serve with harissa and drizzles of olive oil. Serves 4-6.

From My Family Table by John Besh