Cast Iron

Tunisian Lamb Stew (Koucha)

February 13, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

This Tunisian hearty lamb stew is made with potatoes in a gargoulette-type vessel, referred to as golla or kolla, that resembles a jug lying on its side. You can prepare it in a tightly-sealed cast-iron or heavy-based pot in the oven, or to save time, in a pressure cooker. Feel free to add a cup of drained, canned chickpeas, if you'd like. If you'd rather use beef than lamb, go for it.

Ras-el-hanout is an essential North African spice mix available at spice stores and some delis. If you can’t find any, make a simple substitute with 1/3 teaspoon of each of these ground spices: cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, fine black pepper, turmeric, plus one finely crushed cardamom pod.

Featured In: The Tunisian Lamb Stew I First Tasted in the Desert, Recreated at HomeIshay Govender-Ypma

  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes, or purchase pre-cut lamb stew meat (with bones, if possible)
  • 8 cloves garlic, sliced thickly
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2-3 teaspoons ras-el-hanout
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves destalked
  • 1/3 cup thyme, de-stemmed
  • 1 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into 8 wedges each
  • 2 large green or red bell peppers, cut into thick strips
  • 500 milliliters (about 2 cups) vegetable or lamb stock, plus extra salt, to taste
  • 3 boiled eggs (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a large cast-iron saucepan or pot, turn the heat to medium-high, add the oil and fry the onions until translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon. Take off the heat and set aside. In a different pan, add the meat in batches, and brown on all sides. When done, add to the pan with the onions. When done with all the batches, add all the remaining meat and the juices to the saucepan or pot with the onions.
  2. Add the garlic, spices and herbs to the saucepan/pot and stir well to coat the lamb. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring well.
  3. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, stock, and salt and cook for 10 minutes, covered. While stew is cooking, preheat the oven, with rack on the lower third, to 320° Fahrenheit.
  4. Remove lid, set pot aside and cover the top carefully with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make a small gash in the center with a sharp knife. Transfer to the oven and cook for an hour. Remove from oven, carefully peel back foil and add more stock or water, as needed.
  5. Cover pot tightly and return to the oven for another 45 minutes to an hour or until lamb is tender and potatoes are soft (but not mushy).
  6. Adjust seasoning. Serve hot, decorated with slices of boiled egg, if using, and a tomato and onion salad, and a big squeeze of lemon.

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Ishay is a former lawyer, now a freelance food and travel photojournalist, delving into all aspects of culture. Author of Curry: Stories & Recipes across South Africa. She's fascinated by what makes us human.