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Traditional Tunisian Lamb Couscous

2 hrs
Prep: 20 mins | Cook: 1 hr 40 mins | Servings: 6 people


      Traditional Tunisian Lamb Couscous


      Couscous is a staple in most Maghreb cuisines. It is known as the national dish in Tunisia, but also in Algeria and Morocco, as well as Mauritania and Libya. Tunisian couscous is one of the countless variations of this delicious and versatile dish.

      It is thought that the original name of couscous (Arabic: كسكس) could have come from the Arabic word kaskasa, which means “to pound in small pieces” or from the Berber word seksu, which means “rounded” or “well rolled”.

      It is called kousksi in Tunisia, taamkosksi or kesksu in Algeria, seksu in Morocco, and maftoul in Jordan and Lebanon. It is also used in Sicily where it is known as cuscusu.

      Couscous is made from small durum semolina balls that are crushed and steamed.

      Couscous is traditionally steamed in a couscous steamer (couscoussier) to produce softer, larger grains. Nowadays, the couscous grain (semolina) that is sold in most supermarkets in the western world is pre-steamed and then dried.

      Precooked couscous, also known as instant couscous, takes less time to prepare than traditional couscous, and is almost as good, although purists will easily notice the difference.

      When preparing a meat couscous, it is important to choose only one meat. Indeed, the couscous is steamed with the vegetable and meat broth, and this broth should give the aroma of only one meat.

      Couscous can also be prepared with several spices, and spice blends. In Tunisia, tabel is the preferred spice blend. It usually includes at coriander, caraway, garlic and chili powder at a minimum.

      There is also ras el hanout, a spice blend from the Maghreb whose recipes also vary but which often include spices such as cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon or coriander.



      • 2 lb lamb stew meat , cut into large pieces
      • 2 lb couscous fine semolina (or medium)
      • 2 onions , finely chopped
      • 2 cloves garlic , pressed
      • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
      • 2 tablespoons harissa
      • 2 tablespoons ground caraway
      • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
      • 1 teaspoon chili powder
      • 4 turnips , cut in half
      • 6 medium carrots , peeled
      • 4 zucchini , peeled lengthwise, alternately leaving a layer of skin
      • 6 small potatoes , peeled
      • 10 oz. chickpeas (canned)
      • 4 green hot peppers , fried in oil (optional)
      • Vegetable oil
      • Salt
      • Pepper


      1. Pour ½ cup of oil into a large pan. Fry the onion over medium heat for 2 minutes.
      2. Add the garlic, tomato paste and harissa and continue frying for 2 minutes.
      3. Add the caraway, coriander, and chili powder. Mix and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
      4. Add the lamb meat and mix well so that the pieces are covered with the sauce. Cook for 5 minutes stirring regularly.
      5. Cover with water. Add the turnips and carrots, and cook on low/medium heat for 45 minutes.
      6. Meanwhile, prepare the couscous semolina as indicated on the package, with boiling water, salt, and oil.
      7. After 45 minutes, add the zucchini, potatoes and chickpeas.
      8. Cook for at least another 30 to 40 minutes over low/medium heat. Monitor the cooking of the vegetables. If some vegetables are cooked before the meat, remove them from the pan and place them on a serving platter. Proceed in the same way with all the vegetables to prevent them from cooking too much.
      9. 10 minutes before the end of cooking, get a few ladles of broth (one at a time) and wet the couscous semolina. Mix the semolina well after each ladle until it get moistened enough.
      10. Arrange the semolina in a tajine pot. Decorate the dish with the vegetables and the meat all around. Garnish with fried green hot peppers (optional).


      Recipe by Chef: Mike 

      Category: Origin:

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