Spring has Sprung!

It is that time of year when sprouts of green grass show up in the after-winter mud, and birds sing earlier with the rising of the sun. Daffodils poke their heads out in gardens like debutantes at the ball for the first time. Baby animals start to wobble and nuzzle their way into our hearts, and the sun warms us all as it lengthens the days. Even food is more exciting as new shoots and fresh herbs are added to the menu. It is no small wonder that Easter is one of the largest celebrations of the year it heralds all kinds of new beginnings.

This Easter, how about beginning a new tradition? Below is a list of things that I hope will add a new twist to a very old celebration…
  • Turn the Easter Egg Hunt into a scavenger hunt with clues – if you have a big group of kids, they can team up (a hunt for big kids just has different treats – or maybe not!)
  • Organize an Easter parade on your street, with the kids on decorated bicycles, trikes or wagons and adults in Easter bonnets of all kinds
  • Make the entire Easter weekend a festive event – try themed meals from different cultures or craft projects to decorate with or gifts to offer (I had couscous on Good Friday the year I lived in France and I try to duplicate it every year, complete with as many friends or family as will fit in the house!)
  • Take time to enjoy Mother Nature with a walk in the woods or a visit to a formal garden – be thankful you can enjoy another season of new life
  • Make a Spring Resolution – it is much easier to be motivated when the sun is shining on a warm day than in the dead of winter

I include my recipe for couscous below in hopes that it will inspire you to share your happiness with good friends, old and new. Above all, Easter is about the beginning of new things, and there is nothing worth celebrating more than new life. Find the new joys in your life and rejoice!

Serves 6-10 (depending on how hungry they are!)

This North African stew recipe has amazing friendship-forming powers. If you like kitchen parties, invite people to come and help prepare the dish. The only real equipment you need is a large stockpot, and a colander of similar diameter to balance over it (or a microwave for modern folks).

1 kg medium couscous grains
½ cup olive oil
1 kg lamb shoulder – half on the bone, half chopped as stewing meat (this can be omitted if you want to make the couscous vegetarian)
4 small onions, chopped
1 70 g can tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 kg chicken OR 500 g each beef, pork or chicken to make 1 kg meat (again, omit for vegetarian and substitute vegetables as below)
2 carrots, chopped in chunks (4 carrots for vegetarian version)
2 medium turnips, chopped (3 turnips for vegetarian version)
3 small zucchinis, sliced (4 zucchinis for vegetarian version)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 540 mL can chick peas, rinsed
1-1/2 tsp ground sumac
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp harissa hot pepper paste
½ g saffron
1 cup peas
½ tsp cinnamon
salt, pepper, cinnamon to taste

In a large stockpot heat the olive oil to medium heat and add lamb and onions. Season with salt and pepper and stir until meat is browned and onions are transparent. Add saffron, garlic, tomato paste, harissa and 2 L cold water. Stir to mix well and cover. Simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes or until meat is tender.

Meanwhile, chop vegetables and the remaining meat (pieces should fit on a soupspoon). Add carrots and turnips first stir and let simmer for 20 minutes longer. Next add zucchini, tomatoes, sumac and cumin. Stir and cook as before for a further 10-20 minutes.

As the couscous progresses, pour refreshments for the chef and all helpers, then pour the couscous grains into a microwavable bowl. Add ½ tsp salt to 1/2 L water and stir until dissolved. Gradually pour the salted water over the grains, fluffing them with a fork as you pour. Add ¼ cup (one ladle-full) of broth from the pot and 2 tbsp olive oil over the grains and fluff again set aside for 20 minutes, fluffing occasionally.

To your stockpot, now add peas, chick peas, cinnamon and adjust seasoning to taste. (Harissa or your hot sauce of choice can be served at the table if you prefer.) The couscous should have a fragrant and spicy flavour to it.
Increase heat to medium-low and warm couscous grains in a colander lined with a tea towel balanced over the stockpot, or in a microwave if you have one.

Serve couscous grains on plates first, making a hole for the broth. Make sure each guest gets some of all elements from your wonderful stockpot on their plate.

If you would like to try a variation, try Imperial Couscous by adding 1 cup sultana raisins to the couscous grains before you fluff them. In all cases, remember to toast the magic of good friends before beginning your feast!

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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