Nazha Kasraoui learned to make her country's national dish -- which, despite its name, is made with any number of vegetables -- while growing up in Rabat. There are faster ways to make couscous, but Kasraoui prefers the age-old, multi-step method for superior results. She allows for 10 servings, but there's plenty left over.
Servings: 10 - 15
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 10 pieces
- 1 pound onion, cut in medium slices
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch saffron
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound peeled and seeded medium tomatoes, each cut into 4 to 6 pieces, depending on size
- 11 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 pound chickpeas, soaked the day before and drained (may substitute one 15-ounce can of chckpeas, drained)
- 1 head cabbage, quartered
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise and crosswise
- 1 pound small turnips, peeled and halved
- 1 small (16 ounces) pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into large chunks (may substitute butternut or acorn squash)
- 1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and crosswise
- 1 bunch cilantro, tied with kitchen string
- 2 packages (70 ounces) medium-grain couscous
- 2 tablespoons corn oil
- 2 1/3 sticks (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over low heat. Add the lamb, onions, ground ginger, saffron and salt and pepper to taste and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add 8 1/2 cups of the water and the chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the cabbage and cook for 10 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. Add the carrots, turnips and pumpkin and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Add the zucchini and the cilantro and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until tender, then discard the cilantro. Set aside.
Have ready a large, heavy pot that is fitted for a steamer. Add enough water to come up just below the steamer. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the couscous and the corn oil. Using your hands, mix well. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of water over the couscous and mix with your hands to evenly distribute the water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to the steamer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
Return the couscous to the bowl and add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water, mixing to incorporate (the couscous will be soft at this point). Let sit for 5 minutes, then put it in the steamer for 10 more minutes. Transfer the couscous back to the bowl, add the butter and salt to taste and stir to combine. Set aside until the vegetables are nearly ready. About 5 minutes before the vegetables are done, heat the couscous in the steamer.
To serve, mound the couscous, with a slight crater in the middle, on a large, shallow platter. Using a slotted spoon, alternate the carrots, turnips, pumpkin and zucchini along the outer edge of the couscous and place the lamb and cabbage mixture in the middle. Spoon about 2 cups of the cooking liquid over the whole dish. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Nazha Kasraoui, a cook for the Moroccan Embassy.
Tested by Alice Hreiz.
Email questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.