Friday, 22 April 2011

Quick Moroccan Lamb and Cous Cous

Generally speaking, I’m not much of a planner. Planning entails writing lists and sticking to something. I’d say I was a bit more spontaneous (my mum would say, unorganised). My ‘planning ahead’ is doing a weekly shop in the supermarket and picking up some of what looks good, fresh and in season. And then taking it from there.

I begin cooking the crew lunch after morning ‘Smoko’ (coffee break) this the moment I will look in the fridge and make a decision as to what is on the menu that day. Sometimes I may start cooking and not be absolutely sure where it’s all going. I think the crew have learnt not to ask until about half an hour before I serve it, or the response they could get can go; ‘um, well, it’s going to be mushroomy I think, with some tarragon and possibly some potatoes, so maybe a frittata but could always be a pasta…I’m not really sure yet.

Some might find this stressful but I find it keeps me on my creative toes, keeps the menu fresh and I haven’t repeated many meals so the crew don’t get bored with my cooking; a risk that comes from cooking for the same people every day. Mind you I say this and they may well all be pretty bored of my cooking. Bless ‘em though, they’re doing a good job of hiding it. Thanks guys.

So I did actually plan this recipe ahead, a rare occurrence. I had even cooked it last year I think and thought it would be a good one for the blog because it’s easy, quick, very tasty and though I hate to use the word ‘cheap’ with reference to my cooking, it is. Let’s say budget friendly shall we? That sounds a bit less ‘Oliver Twist’.  I guess writing this blog is helping me become more organised. Oh dear.

I was lucky enough to find a reasonably priced shoulder of lamb for sale and decided to do a Moroccan lamb casserole with couscous. Please don’t switch off just because I said couscous. So many people tell me it’s dull and they don’t like it, but you can make it sooooo delicious I promise.  The crew loved this one (again) and they’re big, strong sailor types so don’t be afraid of the couscous. Love the couscous! 

Morrocan Lamb with couscous

And so for my second meat recipe of this entire blog so far, you will need;

A shoulder of lamb, boned, or leg of lamb would do, or shanks.
2 onions peeled and sliced roughly
2 tsp honey
5 carrots peeled and cut into chunks
All lined up and ready to go. Thats not 5 spice by the way, its cumin.
2 sticks of celery cut into chunks
2 aubergines cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic, crushed                 
3 tbsp ground almonds               
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp mint sauce or jelly
1 tsp of your homemade Harissa paste (See blog titled ‘A Store Cupboard must have’)
2 tbsp plain flour
1 pint of homemade chicken or lamb stock or use stock cubes if that’s what you have.
I can of drained chick peas
Couscous, wholemeal, medium or whatever is your favourite
Handful of raisins or chopped, dried apricots
½ tsp turmeric
Chicken stock or vege stock
Fresh coriander and mint


  • First begin by searing the lamb in a little sunflower oil. Don’t put too much meat in the pan at once, or it’ll lose its heat and the meat will stew instead of brown.

  • Put the lamb aside once it’s all browned and start sautéing the onions, carrots celery and aubergine all at the same time. Told you this was quick and easy.

  • Once you’ve stir fried the vege’s for a bit, add the garlic and all the spices and let the heat work on the spices for a few moments.

  • Next add the Harissa paste and mint sauce, honey and the flour, let it all combine and then slowly start adding the stock, incorporating all the flour each time you add some stock.

  • Season with salt and pepper, add the ground almonds and chick peas then bring to the boil. Once it has come to the boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer very, very gently for an hour or longer if you have it with a lid on.

  • For the couscous (I rarely weigh this and go by sight which makes it quicker) put the couscous and a small knob of butter or blob of olive oil into a bowl. Add a little salt, ½ tsp turmeric and some harissa paste if you wish and stir to combine. I put some golden raisins in too but you could add dried apricots or prunes. Pour in boiling stock or water till it sits above the level of the couscous by about 1cm. Put on a heavy plate or cling film to seal and leave for about ten minutes.

  • When your nearly ready to serve, you can stir into your couscous some toasted flaked almonds and the chopped fresh coriander and mint. Lovely.

  • Taste and adjust the seasoning of the lamb accordingly and serve with the couscous and some flat breads if you wish.

When it comes to everyday food it really needn’t be any more complicated than that but also needn’t be dull or repetitive. This lamb dish is so tasty and cosy but with a light summer lift when served with the couscous and all its fresh herbs. All nutty and fruity.

Any left-over couscous can be stuffed into half peppers later on in the week with some spices, cheese and baked for lunch. Sweet.

As I write this the sky is beginning to cloud over.We’re sailing again tomorrow and the weathers looking a wee bit boisterous so we could be getting wet. I decided on cherry tomato, mozzarella and pesto wraps and smoked mackerel and tuna mayonnaise baguettes. That should keep them happy if it's a hard day out on the water.  

Don't worry Mummy, I'll be wearing my harness. Standard issue on our boat and I tested my harness out last year at the Pendennis regatta in Falmouth so I know it works. All good fun! I promise to take lots of photos. Thanks for reading and see you next time.