Moroccan Vegetable Couscous with Lamb
Growing up my Moroccan grandmother, Meme’, would serve lamb and vegetable couscous every Sukkot. The truth is, she would serve this dish whenever there was a special occasion or meal, but specifically Sukkot it was the first meal of the Chag.
Her couscous, made from scratch not an instant package in sight, was one of the most savory and delicious dishes that you will ever eat. From the perfectly cooked chickpeas, the buttery pumpkin, to the sweet hot raisins popping in your mouth with every bite this side dish was more than just an accompaniment to her dreamy tasting lamb. It was a M-E-A-L of pure-mouth-watering bliss!
As kids my purely Ashkenazi mother, perfected my Meme’s dish, and served it to us countless of times. Now as a mother and a cook, I have also made this dish on numerous occasions, and every time, I am transformed into the little kid watching my Meme’ spoon out heaping steaming platefuls of this wonderful tasting rustic dish in the Succah. It is a tradition that I have personally kept up, making this my meal for the first night of Succot every year, since I have been making Yom Tov by myself.
Tips: in a real pinch I have used canned chickpeas –the dish was tasty – BUT not the same when I used real chickpeas. I have also made this couscous with beef and chicken.
- ½ cup dried chickpeas, that have been soaked overnight
- 4 large yellow onions, quartered and sliced
- Kosher salt to taste
- Fresh Black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- 4 -5 strands of saffron crushed
- 2 tbsp. Margarine
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2lbs lamb (you can use baby lamb chops, lamb neck or shoulder cut into pieces)
- 1 ½ lbs instant couscous
- 1 lb carrots, chopped
- 2 large zucchinis, chopped
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 1/3 cups dark raisins
- 1 ½ lbs of butternut squash, cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp. melted margarine
- 1 tsp. ground thyme
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ cup toasted almond slivers
In a large Dutch oven, cook the onions, salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric, saffron, margarine and olive oil. Mix the onions with a wooden spoon, and cover and cook on medium-low for about 10-12 minutes until the onions have softened.
Once they have softened, uncover onions and let them cook until they have turned golden. Add the lamb and pan sear on all sides. Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over medium –high heat for about 2 hours.
After 2 hours add the chickpeas, carrots, zucchini, butternut squash, sugar, raisins and cook for another 30 -35 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl toss your warm couscous with the melted margarine, thyme, & cinnamon.
To Serve: Spread out the couscous onto the plate and ladle heaping piles of cooked lamb with a little of its broth and vegetables on top. Garnish with lots of toasted slivered almonds.
MAKING ONLY THE VEGETABLE COUSCOUS Tip: if you just want to make the vegetable part of this couscous dish. Toss all your vegetables including the rasins in a large bowl with olive oil, and all the spices (saffron, thyme, salt, pepper, ginger & turmeric and the sugar). Lay them out on a well-oiled cookie tray and roast in oven on about 325 for 40-45 minutes. Serve them on top of couscous for a great side dish.