Steamed Wheat with Lamb, Winter Vegetables, and Chickpeas

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a main dish

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

In this popular home dish from the southern Tunisian town of Gafsaa, coarse bulgur is steamed like couscous until tender, tossed with a savory, peppery lamb and vegetable stew, then baked like a gratin.

This dish is prepared with only the smallest amount of liquid, just the moisture exuded by its humble vegetables—cabbage, turnips, carrots, and onions—creating a sweet, burnished-onion flavor counterpointed by peppery aromatics. The pan juices are thinned a bit to moisten the steamed bulgur, then the ingredients are layered and baked in the oven with a swirl of fresh olive oil, until all the moisture has been absorbed and the top is crusty and brown. The dish is then served with a topping of chopped parsley and finely sliced marinated green chiles.


  • cup chickpeas
  • 1 cup coarse-grain bulgur
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ pound boned lamb shoulder chops, divided into 12 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons harissa, harous, or harissa-harous (pages 309 and 310), or substitute Turkish pepper paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander or le tabil (page 201)
  • 4 white turnips, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 4 small carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • head of green cabbage, quartered
  • 2 pickled hot green chiles, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in water to cover by at least 2 inches.
  2. About 2 hours before serving, moisten the bulgur in a sieve under running water; drain and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Fill a couscous cooker or large pot with plenty of water and bring to a boil. Place the perforated couscous container or a snug-fitting colander on top, add the grain, cover, and steam for 1 hour, or until almost tender and airy. From time to time, fluff the grain with a fork for even cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan just large enough to hold the meat, onions, and vegetables snugly, place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the meat, tomato paste, onion, garlic, harissa, coriander, turnips, carrots, drained chickpeas, and salt and pepper; mix well. Spread the cabbage leaves on top, lay a crumpled piece of wet parchment paper or foil over the vegetables, cover, and cook over very low heat until the meat and chickpeas are tender, about 1 hour, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of water as necessary.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Transfer the contents of the saucepan to an 8-inch shallow baking dish. Fold in the steamed bulgur and spread out evenly in the dish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and bake until hot, crusty, and brown, about 20 minutes. Scatter the pickled chiles and chopped parsley on top and let stand for 5 more minutes before serving.
  5. With thanks to Houda Mokadmifor sharing this recipe.