I fell in love with Tunisian cuisine while we were in Marseille and we ate a lot of couscous there. I do believe couscous is the national dish of Tunisia but it’s also extremely popular in France – and for good reason, it’s quite affordable and very delicious. It was the first thing I wanted to recreate when I got home and a quick trip down Croydon’s Surrey Street Market gave me all the ingredients I required (you’ll see from the ingredient list below that all are easy to source).

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

I made the most basic of the couscous recipes – just with lamb (though I guess chicken or just vegetable are just as simple). And the recipe itself I cobbled together from a recipe in Saveur and another in a French cookbook – yeah, it’s been so absorbed in France that it features as a traditionally loved recipe in a very very French cookbook! Brilliant!

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

It turned out the recipe really was super easy and tasted just like the couscous we tried in Marseille. It’s very soothing (good for autumn or winter) – all that couscous soaking up the spicy broth – and it’s a good way to eat your vegetables. And it’s great for feeding a crowd – I know this because the two of us ate this for three meals in one week. So yeah, this feeds six.

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

Tunisian Lamb Couscous
Serves 6.

4-6 lamb chops
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
2 courgettes
2 large carrots, peeled
1 turnip or daikon, peeled
Half a small white cabbage

A pinch of saffron
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tbsps tomato paste
2 bay leaves
A shake of ground cloves

1 tin chickpeas, drained
Salt and pepper
Couscous
Chopped parsley
Lemon
Harissa (I bought a tube)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat and brown the lamb chops on both sides. Cut all the vegetables into large chunks and add them all into the pot and stir it around a bit – they can go a little brown, that’s ok. Add water until everything’s covered and bring to a boil. Add the saffron, paprika, ginger, tomato paste, bay leaves and ground cloves and stir in. Let simmer until the lamb is tender and the vegetables are too – about 90 minutes to 2 hours. About an hour of the way in, add the chickpeas and continue simmering.

When you’re almost ready to serve, prepare your couscous, chop your parsley, cut your lemons into wedges for serving. Add salt and pepper to taste to the broth. Place couscous in a serving bowl and top with the lamb and some of the drained vegetables – scatter with a bit of chopped parsley. Serve bowls of the broth and more of the vegetables on the side. Serve with lemon wedges and harissa.

It’s not often that I cook a large cut of meat; I find it quite intimidating. Likewise, it’s not often that I follow a recipe to the letter but I did both a couple weekends ago. This recipe had been sitting in the back of my mind for ages, ever since I watched it on Jamie at Home: slow roasted lamb shoulder and it looked foolproof. It turned out fabulously – the lamb falling off the bone at the slightest tug and the meat so soft it needed little chewing. The mint and caper sauce was tart and brilliant alongside; I expected the mint to be a bit too harsh but it had mellowed in the heat. Really, you’ve got to cook this as it’s almost effortless and the results are excellent. And don’t throw away the roasted garlic – beautifully gooey!

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder Dinner

I even went so far as to make the mashed root vegetables and cavolo nero on the side. Both turned out well but I’ll probably switch up the sides next time.

A Bit of Everything

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Garlic and Rosemary
adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.
serves 4.

1.5 kg lamb shoulder on the bone (original recipe says 2kg but the change in weight didn’t affect cooking)
large handful of rosemary
1 large head of garlic
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to the maximum temperature it can go. Trim the lamb shoulder of any excess fat and slash any remaining fat all over.

Break the garlic into cloves and leave them unpeeled. Put half of the garlic cloves and half of the rosemary sprigs into the bottom of your roasting tray. Place the lamb on top, season it well with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil on top. Scatter the rest of the garlic and rosemary on top. Cover the roasting tray with two layers of aluminium foil, making sure to seal it well.

Put the roasting tray into the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 170C. Roast for 4 hours.

Garlic and Rosemary

Hot Caper and Mint Sauce

1 tbsp flour
500mL hot vegetable or chicken stock
3 tbsps drained capers (in brine)
a small bunch of fresh mint
2 tbsps red wine vinegar

Roughly chop together the capers and mint. Set aside.

When the lamb is ready, put the lamb shoulder (along with the rosemary and garlic) on a serving platter and keep warm. There will be liquid at the bottom of the tray – transfer this to a bowl and return a tablespoon or two of the fat to the roasting tray. Place the roasting tray on a hob at medium heat. Add the flour and stir through well. Then add the juices from the lamb (skim off the remaining fat) and the stock. Boil for about 5 minutes. Add in the capers, mint and vinegar and simmer for another minute before serving with the lamb.