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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Arabian Lamb and Veggie Couscous
Photo by: tr1stero
Ar. al-kuskusū, kuskus, Eng. couscous. The word alcuzcuz could have come from the Magheb, derived from the Ar. al-kuskus; this, in turn, comes from the expression "kaskassa," to grind or pound or from "kuskus," the rattling and rushing sound of couscous grains when rolled by hand. It is thought to have been a Berber invention first made with millet but later with durum wheat with its introduction into North Africa during the 8th or 9th C. Brought from northern Algeria and Morocco to Al-Andalus, durum wheat began to be cultivated there by the 10th C. With couscous, gachas and harira became generalized dishes after 12th C. In Andalusia, the dish was not called couscous until the 13th C when the first recipes for it appeared in the Anon Andalus and Fadalat. Prior to that it was referred to as harira or gachas. Between the 13th and 15th C. recipes for couscous evolved into what the dish is today. Basically, fatty meat was added with vinegar to break up the grease. As fat was then synonymous with sweet, this was another sweet and sour dish in Arab style. See migas and polenta. [Anón/Huici.1966:370:203-204:371:204; Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:85-86; ES: Lord. Culinary. ES: Morse. Mar 27, 03; Gázquez. Cocina. 2002:78; and Perry. “Couscous.” 2001:235-238]

For 4 persons


4 ½ tbsp butter or 3 tbsp butter and 1½ lamb fat
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
large pinch of saffron threads
4 meaty lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
10 parsley sprigs and 1 large thyme sprig, tied in bouquet
3 large celery ribs, cut into 2” lengths
2 large carrots, cut into 2” lengths
2 diced eggplants
1 cup peas
1 cup couscous
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup slivered mint leaves


In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, crumble the saffron into 2 tablespoons of hot water and let stand 10 minutes.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and black pepper. Add them to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until the shanks are well browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Skim off fat and add the saffron and its liquid, the parsley bouquet and a large pinch of salt.

Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer until the lamb is tender, about 2 hours.

Transfer the lamb shanks to a large plate and cover tightly. Add celery and carrots to the casserole, cover and simmer over moderate heat until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add the eggplants and simmer uncovered until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and discard the parsley bouquet; set aside 2½ cups of the broth. Stir in the peas.

Remove the meat from the lamb shanks and cut it into ¾-inch pieces. Return the meat to the stew and discard the bones.

In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 1½ tbsp butter. Add instant couscous (see alcuzcucero) if using tradicional couscous). Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. In the meantime bring the reserved broth, with a large pinch of salt, bring to a boil. Slowly add the broth to the couscous fluffing it with a fork. (Some instant couscous brands do not require so much water.)

Season the lamb stew with salt and pepper. Put the couscous in a mound on a large platter with a high rim. Ladle the lamb and vegetables around the couscous. Sprinkle the lamb and couscous with a little broth., cinnamon and chopped mint leaves. Put the remaining broth in a bowl to be passed to eaters once they are served.

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