Couscous can be prepared in countless ways and each country (and even each family!) has its own variation. In Morocco, it is often made with prunes, raisins, and more cinnamon, giving it a sweeter flavor profile. In Algeria, the sauce is usually a light mild broth (sauce blanche). In Tunisia, it is red and spicy! Couscous is typically made with lamb, chicken, fish, or another protein, and the combinations of vegetables that can be used are endless and usually reflect the season during which the dish is being made. —Our Tunisian Table
lamb stew pieces
olive or vegetable oil
Ras el hanout spice mix (alternatively, you can just use 2 ground coriander although the taste will be slightly different)
crushed red pepper flakes
garlic cloves, peeled
medium onion, chopped
large carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
of one cabbage, cut into wedges with the core intact
pumpkin or squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into 2-3 inch chunks
zucchini- washed (peeling is optional) and cut into 2 inch pieces
medium white potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut in half
*Note: There are several ways to cook couscous. Traditionally, it is cooked in a special pot called a "couscoussière" which has a large bottom pot to cook the sauce and a separate steamer portion at the top for steaming the couscous. To make it easy for those of us who do not own this type of pot, it's best to cook/steam couscous according to your package instructions.
Cook couscous according to package instructions and set aside if making it before the sauce.
In a mortar and pestle, mash garlic and ras el hanout spice mixture into a paste.
In a large pot over medium heat, add your cooking oil. The amount will depend on the size of your pot; it will need to fully cover the bottom of the pot.
To the oil, add the garlic and spice mixture, chopped onion, salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, pepper flakes, and tomato paste and saute for a few minutes until fragrant and onions cook down a bit. If it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot at any point, add a little bit of water and stir.
Add your lamb and saute until the outside sears and changes in color, and it is not leaking any of its juices. Then add enough water to fully cover the lamb. (If using fresh chickpeas that have been soaked rather than canned, add at the same time as the lamb).
Cover the pot, turn heat to low, and let the lamb cook, stirring occasionally. (Depending on the sizes and cut of lamb pieces, it may take one hour to an hour and a half to fully cook).
When the lamb has about 15 minutes until being fully cooked, start adding your vegetables. Start with the tougher vegetables that take longer to cook first: carrots and cabbage. *Add enough water to cover vegetables. Once the sauce comes back to a boil after adding the vegetables, cook for 10-15 minutes. (Vegetable cooking time will depend on sizes and amounts used; check tenderness with fingers or a fork or knife to know when ready).
*Note: Once the lamb is cooked, it can be removed from the pot and set aside to make room to cook the vegetables and to keep it from over cooking.
Add zucchini, potatoes, and squash/pumpkin and again add enough water to keep everything covered if needed. Let simmer until tender (another 15 or so minutes).
If using pearl onions, add for just the last few minutes of cooking. If using a jalapeno pepper, add at this time as well. When everything is cooked, add chickpeas, cook just long enough to bring to temperature (about a minute or two). Taste for salt and add if needed.
Put cooked couscous in large serving dish and start to spoon the sauce over it. Mix to coat all of the couscous. (Use just enough sauce to coat the couscous and give it the red color, and reserve the rest to serve on the side for those who would like to add more).
Arrange vegetables and lamb on top of the couscous and serve. Enjoy.