Ptitim are something of a staple in our kitchen. These little balls of toasted pasta go by many different names – ptitim, Israeli couscous, giant couscous – and are very similar to mograbieh, fregola, and probably more. They’re easy to cook, tasty and very versatile. We eat them with a sauce like pasta, with stews and tagines like couscous, and in salads, like this one.
According to Wikipedia, ptitim were developed at the behest of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, in the 1950s, as an affordable alternative to rice. Originally they were rice shaped, like orzo, but now they come in a range of shapes (in Israel at least). As well as little balls, common shapes include circles or rings, stars, hearts and flowers. Cute!
Our local Sainsbury’s only has the spherical kind though. Check the kosher section if you want to find them 😀
You can cook them in boiling water and then drain them, just like pasta, but I prefer to follow the instructions on the packet, and fry them in a little olive oil before adding boiling water and cooking them for 8-10 minutes until it’s all absorbed. As well as adding a lovely toasty flavour, it also gives the ptitim some additional colour which makes them quite pretty.
This warm salad gave me a chance to try out flower sprouts, which are apparently a cross between brussels sprouts and kale, and are sometimes known as kalettes. They were quite tasty, and certainly very pretty – little balls of frilly purple-green leaves. I found them in M&S food (these are not just flower sprouts…) but if you can’t get hold of them, brussels sprouts would probably taste as good, even if they aren’t quite so decorative.
Also in the salad are lots of other delicious things. Asparagus – yum. Sun dried tomatoes – yummy yum. Garlic – extra yum. Toasted pine nuts – Mmmmm yum. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some black pepper brought all the yumminess together.
Kipper is a big fan of ptitim and picked them all out and ate them before embarking on the vegetables. This is not an approach I recommend, unless you want to make an ENORMOUS mess and spread your salad all over the dining table. Sigh.
We ate this as our main dish, and it was great (I could happily have eaten the same amount again!) but we agreed that it would also be a fabulous side dish. I can see it reappearing come barbecue season as a lovely accompaniment to whatever comes off the grill.
This made enough for 2 generous servings as a vegan main dish, probably 4-6 side-dish sized servings.
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- 2 tsp olive oil
- 140g ptitim
- 160g flower sprouts (kalettes)
- 100g asparagus tips
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 20g sun dried tomatoes
- 30g pine nuts
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- Black pepper, to taste
- Heat the tsp olive oil in a small saucepan. Fry the ptitim for a 2-3 minutes until starting to colour, then add 275ml hot water. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for around 8 minutes until all the water is absorbed.
- Meanwhile, cut the flower sprouts into halves vertically. Slice the asparagus into 2-3cm pieces. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Cut the dried tomatoes into small pieces.
- Heat the 3-4 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet or wok. Stir-fry the flower sprouts and asparagus for 1-2 minutes, then add the sliced garlic and dried tomato pieces and cook for a further minute. Add the pine nuts and cook for one minute more. Remove from the heat.
- Once the ptitim are cooked, mix with the vegetables and lemon juice and season with black pepper to taste.
- Serve warm.