Libyan Couscous

This tender-to-the-bone lamb dish is full of traditional North African ingredients such as chickpeas, couscous, and spices that fill your kitchen with mouthwatering aromas. A couscoussier, or couscous pot is used to cook the couscous, but no need to go out and purchase one. A heat proof colander will work as well. Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for divided use
  • 23 medium onions, minced, for divided use (20 onions in chickpea sauce, 3 in lamb sauce)
  • 1 (15-ounce can) chickpeas, drained
  • 3 small cans tomato paste, for divided use
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, for divided use, plus extra for dusting
  • 3 1/3 cups water, for divided use
  • Blossom water, such as rose water or orange blossom water, for sprinkling
  • 1 kilo lamb cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 to 4 pods cardamom
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne or chili pepper
  • 2 boxes (500 grams) medium sized couscous

Preparation: To prepare the onion and chickpea sauce heat ¼ cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the 20 minced onions and cook, stirring often, until they are golden in color, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and one can tomato paste. Season with salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Add ½ cup water and stir to mix. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered for 55 minutes. Sprinkle with blossom water and dust with cinnamon. Cover, remove from heat and set aside. To prepare the lamb, heat remaining ¼ cup oil in the bottom of a couscous pot or large stock pot. Add the remaining minced onions and cook, stirring often, until they are golden in color, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add lamb pieces, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, and bay leaves. Stir to combine and cook over low heat until meat is browned and juices have evaporated from the pan. Add 1 ½ cans of tomato paste and cayenne or chili powder and stir to coat the lamb. Stir in 2 ½ cups water and bring to a low boil. Save the remaining ½ can of tomato paste for another use. In a medium bowl, stir together the couscous, 1 teaspoon salt, a sprinkle of blossom water and remaining 1/3 cup water. Place the second layer of couscous pot (or heat proof colander) above the meat mixture. Add couscous mixture to the second layer and continue to cook. The steam from the meat sauce in the bottom layer of the pot will cook the couscous in about 35 to 40 minutes. Spoon about ¼ cup of the meat sauce into it and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 20 minutes. Repeat the step above, this time adding ½ cup of the meat sauce. Reduce heat and cook until the lamb is fully cooked. Remove and discard bay leaves. Stir remaining cinnamon into and ¼ cup of the meat sauce into the couscous. To serve, transfer the couscous into a large, deep, serving bowl. Pour the the onion and chickpea sauce over the couscous and top with lamb pieces. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Recipe Submitted by Fadwa Dawad.