Israelis find it amazing that the humble ptitim, known outside the country as Israeli couscous, was for a time a sought-after gourmet ingredient in posh restaurants in New York and London. Literally “small flakes” in Hebrew, these toasted pasta flakes were invented in Israel shortly after the War of Independence when they substituted for rice in the period of economic hardship. Today, decades later, they are still popular. Usually served hot, ptitim also make a base for a filling salad. This one is lovely − lemony and fragrant with an abundance of fresh herbs.
Ingredients (serves 6)
2 cups ptitim (Israeli couscous)
3 carrots cut into juliennes
3 spring onions, sliced thinly
1 cup black Greek olives
1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
6 sprigs basil, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons nigella and sesame seeds, toasted
Juice and zest from 2 lemons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Cook the ptitim in a large quantity of salted boiling water (like you would pasta) until tender. Rinse under running water until cool and drain.
2. Transfer to a bowl and pour on a little oil to prevent the ptitim from sticking. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. Adjust seasoning and set aside for at least half an hour before serving.