Tunisian Couscous

Preparation info

  • 8 to 10

    • Difficulty


Appears in

New York Times Menu Cookbook

New York Times Menu Cookbook

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1966

  • About


  • 1 cup dried chick-peas
  • 3 to 4 pounds cubed leg of lamb
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 quarts Lamb Stock
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, crushed in a mortar
  • 3 or 4 hot red peppers, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cuminseed, or more
  • 2 cups cracked wheat (couscous)
  • ½ cup water
  • 6 turnips, cut into pieces
  • 6 small white onions
  • 12 carrots, cut into pieces
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced
  • ½ small head of cabbage, cut into wedges
  • 1 large green pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • Sauce Piquante


    1. Soak the chick-peas in water overnight. Drain.

    2. Place the lamb cubes, olive oil, salt, black pepper and tomato paste in a large deep kettle or in the bottom part of a large steamer. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

    3. Add the garlic, stock, caraway seeds, hot peppers, cuminseed and drained chick-peas. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and cook for one to two hours.

    4. Meanwhile, spread the cracked wheat on a large tray or platter and sprinkle with the water. Mix lightly with the fingers until all the grains are moistened. Line with muslin the top of the steamer or a colander that will fit over the kettle. Drop the moistened grain into the prepared container. Do not pack down.

    5. About one hour before the meat and chick-peas are done, lower the grains into the top of the steamer or kettle. Cover tightly. The grains will cook in the steam from the lamb and will absorb the flavors. Stir once or twice during the cooking to break up any lumps.

    6. Add the turnips, onions and carrots to the lamb. Cook for fifteen minutes longer. Add the zucchini, cabbage and green pepper. Cook for ten minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Taste the sauce; if necessary, adjust the seasoning.

    7. Spread the cooked cracked wheat on a large deep serving platter. Gradually add the liquid from the lamb stew, stirring the couscous until it will not absorb any more. Cover and let stand for five to seven minutes. Add more liquid from the stew to the couscous, again stirring until it will not absorb any more.

    8. Push the grain into a rounded mound in the center of the tray. Arrange the lamb and vegetables in an attractive pattern around the mound. Serve with sauce piquante.