Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lamb and Cous Cous

During my junior year in college, I lived in Aix-en-Provence, France, where I first had a dish called 'cous cous.' Because of the long and sometimes contentious relationship France had with Algeria, many of recipes made the transit from North Africa to the streets of Paris and Aix-en-Provence. Thus, when I was living in France I was able to try many different versions of this delightful dish. Cous cous was one of my favorite meals when I lived there, but after I returned to the United States, was not able to find a restaurant that had it on their menu. Fast forward to 1990 when the Maven and I were living in Monterey and I was going to graduate school. Dee was working for a local company and she took a client out to lunch at a restaurant in Pacific Grove called Fandango. Lo and behold, this delightful restaurant had cous cous on its menu, and Fandango's version of it was justs as wonderful as the cous cous I had in France. Now, let's get to 2008. We had our kitchen remodeled and I am motivated to try out new recipes and cous cous was high on my list. I found a recipe for this dish on line and last night I tried my hand at Lamb and Cous Cous and I am happy to report that it was an unqualified success. Deirdre loved it and I have been tasked to make it again soon. Below is the recipe:

Lamb with Couscous

Vary this recipe as you will, using beef or chicken instead of lamb and adding or subtracting vegetables. The heat level is also optional: harissa or another hot sauce can be used more copiously if you like spicy food or left out altogether if you want a milder stew. The easiest thing is to stir in just a touch of fiery hot sauce and let your guests add more if they wish.

3 pounds boneless lean lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
1-1/2 cups finely diced onions
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp paprika
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
About 1 tsp salt
About 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of saffron (optional)
1 tsp dried mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems (save the leaves for garnish)
3 cups coarsely chopped onions
4 cups water
3 carrots, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzos), homemade or canned
3 cups 2-inch chunks peeled winter squash, such as butternut or acorn
2 cups 1-inch chunks peeled turnip
1 cup raisins (optional)
Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp Harissa, or other hot sauce, or to taste (optional)
2 cups 2-inch zucchini pieces
2 to 3 cups instant couscous

Combine the lamb, onions, garlic, spices, saffron, mint, and cilantro stems in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the water and bring to a boil, adding more water if necessary to cover lamb. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until the lamb is tender.

Add the carrots, chickpeas, winter squash, turnips, and the optional raisins, cinnamon, and harissa or other hot sauce to the pot, making sure they are covered with liquid (add more water if needed), and cook, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the carrots and squash are tender. Taste for more harrisa or hot sauce and salt and pepper.

Almost all the couscous available in the United States is already cooked or instant. Once you've added the squash to the stew, cook the couscous following the directions on the box. Spoon the couscous into a large, shallow serving bowl and ladle the stew over it. Pass harissa or another hot sauce at the table.

Yield: Serves 8, with leftovers


Lisa... said...

Love cous cous. Love love love cous cous. It's just a blank canvas waiting for the infusion of something yummy.

I don't cook much with lamb - although I love it and I'm a big fan of pretty much any lamb dish they serve in Greektown. The Yuvetsake? Totally lovely.

This recipe probably looks more ominous than it really is just given the quantity of ingredients. How was the saffron?


Paul's Blog said...

You really could not taste much of the onions. I essentially liquefied the " 1 1/4 cup finely chopped onions," and I finely chopped up the "3 cups coarsely chopped onions." I used 4 onions total, so that might have kept the onion quotient down.

As for the saffron, I used, literally, a pinch. It added a very subtle flavor to the lamb.

Big Johnny said...

Can't stand the "American" style of cooking lamb, but this "Arab" style has potential...

Deirdre said...

This was UNBELIEVABLY GOOD. This will go into our Sunday easy making rotation. Fantastic.