RECIPE: Jonny Ralph’s rooibos and vanilla-infused couscous salad

Jonny Ralph’s rooibos and vanilla-infused couscous salad. Picture: Nathan Hostler

Jonny Ralph’s rooibos and vanilla-infused couscous salad. Picture: Nathan Hostler

Published Feb 12, 2024


Couscous is the perfect backdrop for showcasing bold flavours and seasonal produce.

This vegetarian side dish celebrates the use of fresh and flavourful ingredients with each bite delivering a burst of flavour.

Couscous is an underused pantry item. It is a staple in regions like Morocco and Northern Africa, but we often forget how versatile it is to use in our daily meals.

The good news is if you pick up a package of instant couscous, it only takes a few minutes to absorb hot water and turn into tender grains.

Couscous has a lovely nuttiness and acts like little sponges, selfishly soaking up the citrus dressing for your benefit. It is a wonderful solution when you need a quick and light meal.

This rooibos and vanilla-infused couscous salad recipe by chef Jonny Ralph is a perfect example.

New chef lecturer at Capsicum Culinary School’s Rosebank campus Ralph has more than two decades of experience in the culinary industry, including work experience overseas.

But now he wants to give back and train a future generation of upcoming food superstars, something he has done before and which really resonates with him.

Jonny Ralph . Picture: Supplied

“I started my culinary journey in 2001 while I was employed at resorts in the US, and fell in love with working in the kitchens. Three years later, I made the decision to return to South Africa and study for a formal chef qualification.

“Once I graduated, I had the opportunity to return to America to work as a sous chef in Florida,” Ralph said.

“I came back home to study further - doing an advanced pastry course as well as a hospitality diploma - and then lectured before working at various restaurants as well as consulting and designing kitchens.

“I can truly say that I have done it all. Now I want to once again share my knowledge and experience, this time with students at Capsicum. I feel such a sense of pride when I see them turning into great chefs,” he added.

Jonny Ralph’s rooibos and vanilla-infused couscous salad. Picture: Nathan Hostler

Jonny Ralph’s rooibos and vanilla-infused couscous salad

Serves: 4


1 cup couscous

1 rooibos tea bag

¼ vanilla pod

20g honey

30g carrot, diced

30g red onion, diced

30g apple, diced

30g walnuts, roasted and chopped

5g coriander leaves

Salt and pepper to taste


Cut a quarter of a vanilla pod in half, and scrape out the seeds.

Place seeds and pod together with the rooibos tea bag and honey in a pot and add 2 cups of water.

Boil until the tea is black and strong or reduced by 1⁄3.

Place the couscous into a sealable container and strain 1 cup of the boiling tea over it and seal, leave for 5 minutes.

Next, sauté the carrot, onion, apple and walnuts. Open the couscous container and scrape with a fork to loosen the grains.

Season to taste.

Mix in the sautéed ingredients and sprinkle over the chopped-up coriander.

Enjoy as a side or as a whole salad by adding some shredded BBQ chicken strips.