Cast Iron

Tunisian Lamb Stew (Koucha)

February 13, 2018
10 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Serves 4
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

What You'll Need
  • 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)
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rhonda35
  • Sabine Gagnon
    Sabine Gagnon
  • debbonow
  • Peggy Griswold
    Peggy Griswold
  • Guðrún Rósa Ísberg
    Guðrún Rósa Ísberg
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.

17 Reviews

Rachel February 8, 2021
Pressure cooker instructions: Sauté in the pressure cooker, the lamb and onions as described. Add all the rest of the ingredients. Lock on lid. Bring to pressure. Cook under pressure for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let pressure come down naturally. I made this as a half recipe with some lamb chops that were hiding in the back of the freezer for a bit too long. Cut the meat of the bones and made the broth from the bones. Used canned tomatoes and dried herb de Provence instead of fresh thyme or rosemary because - pandemic not shopping!
Rhonda35 December 12, 2020
This is delicious! So much so that even my stew-hating son loved it! I used a can of diced tomatoes since I didn't have fresh, and I waited to add the potatoes till the last 45 minutes so they wouldn't be too soft, but otherwise stuck to the ingredients. For those with a delicate palate, I'd recommend skipping the chili flakes or only using a tiny pinch - it is a spicy dish. Went a bit rogue and served over grits with feta - no complaints!
Sabine G. November 16, 2020
HOLY SMOKES! This came out AMAZING. Probably the best thing I have made all year! My husband took a bite and said 'I think I'm falling in love with you all over again' and couldn't stop raving about it. Thanks for sharing! I'll be making this many times over!
debbonow April 23, 2019
Came out more like a soup than a stew. I would decrease the amount of stock. We used cubed lamb shank and it did make for a tender stew. Made the spice combination instead of using ras al hanout.. The potatoes were a bit overcooked.
I would add them when there is 45 minutes of cooking time left. Everyone enjoyed this dish. There were zero leftovers!
Bagelishads October 1, 2018
when you cover the pot tightly after an hour, is that with an actual lid?
Peggy G. May 14, 2018
Photo simply looks like butternut squash or carrots.
All would be yummy.
marilu May 12, 2018
It's 62 degrees in San Diego, California (oh, boo-hoo), and I decided that a warm and savory stew would be comforting for dinner tonight. I'm in no way an experienced cook, but this recipe was easy to follow. The result was a delicious meal that my husband and I were able to delight in as we spooned this atop coconut jasmine rice. Thank you so much for the recipe. Can't wait to share this with others!
Jacquie April 16, 2018
Made it as specified and it was very good. Next time I think I would omt the potatoes and substitute chick peas.
Ishay G. April 17, 2018
Hi Jacquie. I'm a fan of potatoes, but chickpeas would be great in the stew too. Glad you enjoyed it.
Peggy G. March 14, 2018
Carrots were not listed in recipe. Please add carrots to recipe. I would update recipe to show using Olive Oil
Ishay G. April 17, 2018
Hi Peggy! You're correct - we didn't use carrots in this recipe. You can add them to yours. Olive oil is the traditional ingredient used, but if someone doesn't have any, they can use regular cooking oil, because its a small amount and doesn't affect the taste profile overall.
Guðrún R. February 21, 2018
In step 5 do you mean cover the top with the aluminum foil or the lid ?
Ishay G. February 21, 2018
Hello. With the foil. Hope you enjoy it if you try the recipe.
Catharine February 17, 2018
Could you also provide the details on how to convert this for a pressure cooker? Thank you.
Ishay G. February 20, 2018
Hi Catharine. I haven’t tested the recipe for a pressure cooker version so can’t help you with accuracy. I hope you try it though.
Nic C. March 10, 2018
I guess this is obvious but I'll say it anyway: since the recipe states you can save time by preparing it in a pressure cooker, it would be helpful if you had tips or instructions for preparing it in a pressure cooker.
Ishay G. April 17, 2018
Hi Nic. We didn't want to exclude those familiar with pressure cooking, or those who might be put off by a longer cooking time because they usually use a pressure cooker, or Instant Pot for example. The tip was provided to be inclusive, but setting out instructions for each device would mean an entire new recipe and page. I hope you understand and will try the recipe in whatever manner you find most convenient.