Moroccan Lamb and Vegetable Couscous

This classic couscous is loaded with slow-cooked lamb and poached vegetables, and spiced with fresh ground pepper and saffron. Traditional couscous isn't really spicy. It is a North African dish made of semolina and is traditionally served with various meats and vegetables.

As a child, I remember eating Royal couscous with Seven Vegetables "Couscous royal aux sept légumes" once a week, most of time it cooked with pumpkin, turnips, chickpeas, carrots, squash, zucchini, tomato, eggplant, sweet bell peppers, and raisins.


Vegetable and meat stew:

3 small turnips, peeled and quartered
1 medium yellow onion, quartered lengthwise, root end intact
3 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 pound butternut squash
3 small zucchini, cut into 2-inch rounds
1/2 (8-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of saffron or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 cups water
8 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley and 4 fresh cilantro, tied together with kitchen string
1/4 cup of flat parsley and cilantro finely chopped
3 medium fresh tomato
2 medium onion chopped

The couscous in Morocco is light, soft, fluffy, and buttery, and is served with broth-based stews. Nothing like the instant couscous we eat in the U.S. Steaming couscous will yield much, much more than dumping it in boiling water. By steaming it we will end up with 4 times as much couscous cooked.

Buying Couscous:

I recommend buying the bulk couscous rather than the "instant" or "pre-cooked"boxed couscous. The directions of cooking boxed couscous often require you to boil the product. Real couscous is always steamed and never boiled. You will find it sold in bulk bins at whole food or grain stores or boxed without the word "instant" on the package.

Steamed Couscous:

1 1/3 cups of couscous
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of salt


Pat the meat dry with paper towels (this helps keep it from steaming instead of searing) and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Use a stainless steel or a cast iron pan; avoid nonstick pan. Add a few teaspoons of olive oil and set the pan over high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer and smoke just slightly, you're ready to add the meat. Don't crowd the pan. Once you've seared all sides of the meat, remove the meat from the pan. transfer the meat to bowl or a large plate.

Toss the tomato, onions, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat (from the meat) in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the chopped parsley and cilantro and cook for 5 more minute.

Put the meat back into the pot with the juices. Add a cup of water to almost cover the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours.

For the vegetables: 

Once the meat is completely cooked, remove it from the pot and add the turnips, carrot, salt, pepper, and saffron or turmeric. Tie parsley and cilantro sprigs together with kitchen string and add it with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil over high medium heat; cover, and cook for 10 minutes then add the remaining vegetables: pumpkin, chickpeas, squash, zucchini, eggplant, and raisins, and reduce the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are somewhat soft, about 15 to 25 minutes. All the vegetables should be tender enough to cut with the side of a fork, but still hold their shapes.

Steaming the couscous

On a large working bowl, combine the couscous with 1/8 cup  of water and stir with your hands to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes. Break up the clumps of couscous and combine with a teaspoon of olive oil. On the stove boil salted water or broth in a pasta pot with a drainer insert. Transfer the couscous into the strainer, making sure it does not make contact with the water.

Steam it, with no lid, for 15 minutes, then transfer it back to the bowl and let it cool. Break up any clumps with your fingers and add another 1/8 cup of water, then return it to the pot and steam for another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove it from the pot and fluff it up with your fingers, and repeat the whole process twice: steam, cool, and add water. 

Add a tablespoon of butter to the couscous, and spread the couscous over a large serving platter and, using a slotted spoon, mound the vegetables and meat in the center. Pour some of the broth over the vegetables. Pass the remaining broth, if desired, at the table.



  1. This is gorgeous and makes me want to buy a rack of lamb immediately! I've been looking for lamb recipes lately and this hits all the buttons!

  2. Thanks +TRACEY HAGAN for nice comment. Lamb improve the broth for this dish.

  3. That looks really delicious...

  4. This dish is beautiful. I'm falling in love with North African cuisine and can't wait to get more into it. As I type this I'm preparing a South African bredie with lamb and potatoes.

  5. Chelsea, I'm glad you like this dish.



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