Tag Archives: couscous

Lamb, fresh fig and almond tagine and fledgling couscous enthusiasts


We have a young turtle dove in temporary residence at the moment. At least I think it’s temporary. Léo found her nestling in a hole at the bottom of an oak tree and brought her into the house, claiming that she’d fallen from the nest and didn’t know how to fly. He then went on to explain that the hens are  ‘blood-thirsty and vicious she-devils’ and Hugo is an ‘irresponsible nutter’ and that she couldn’t possibly be left to fend for herself. In the face of this irrefutable logic, how could I refuse? At first Léo had to feed her himself, but after about a week she learned to peck and developed an absolute passion for couscous seasoned with Ras el Hanout. A neighbour told us that there are lots of Moroccan turtle doves that have settled in the area, which would explain her exotic tastes. This recipe is the result of my searches for ‘things to serve with couscous’ because, gorgeous as she is, I draw the line at cooking separate dishes for a month-old bird. Léo is coaching her in her valiant efforts to fly, and she now executes perfect sorties from her box to the water jug and back (photo below). And she’s apparently a lot more fun than toy helicopters because you ‘don’t have to recharge her batteries’. The jury’s still out though as to which is harder work; you don’t have to clear up helicopter mess innumerable times a day… I’m not altogether convinced that her plan is to put her flying skills to the ultimate test and up and leave, as I suspect she’ll have a bit of a hard time finding Ras el Hanout-flavoured couscous in the forest around here.


Ingredients (serves 4)

85g almonds

1kg lamb, cut into 3cm cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 carrots, peeled and cut into thumb-size pieces

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground paprika

I teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

2 tablespoons honey

6 fresh figs, cut in half

Fresh coriander, chopped, to serve

Toast the almonds for about 15 minutes in a small frying pan. Chop and set aside. In a medium-sized tagine or covered casserole dish (dutch oven), combine the lamb, olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots and spices, tossing well to combine. Add two cups of water, cover and gently simmer for an hour. Add the honey and figs and simmer for a further 30 minutes, checking from time-to-time that there is still some liquid (add more water if necessary). The tagine is ready once the lamb is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with almonds and coriander and serve with couscous or rice (couscous is you have an epicurean turtle dove at the table).

Vegetable couscous and crestfallen hens


As if a deeply neurotic dog isn’t enough to cope with, I now appear to have a depressed hen on my hands. She’s been a bit down in the beak since the arrival of the young louts and has taken to spending time alone, presumably heeding the French adage ‘Il vaut mieux être seul que mal accompagné’ (it’s better to be alone than badly accompanied). I’m a dab hand at dealing with dippy horses (two headcollars ripped to shreds in under five minutes today; a record even by our standards) and bipolar dogs, but this is somewhat baffling…

I made this vegetable couscous with her in mind as it meant lots of vegetable peelings and some remnents of couscous grain to perk her up a bit. I used spelt couscous which is nutty, subtle and lighter than wheat couscous, but you can use either. I’m a big fan of spelt, an ancient protein-rich grain offering a far broader range of nutrients than wheat (manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B3, magnesium, copper…). It also seems to cause fewer digestive problems than wheat, although it does contain gluten.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces

1 potato, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 onion, peeled and sliced

4 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 red pepper (sliced)

2 tomatoes (blanched, peeled and sliced)

1 large courgette, cut into approximately 4cm slices

4 baby turnips, peeled

100g pre-cooked chickpeas

1 bay leaf

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 teaspoons ras-el-hanout

200ml chicken or vegetable stock

200g couscous

handful of raisins

harissa and fresh mint to serve

Fry the onions in the olive oil, gradually adding the other vegetables. Add the seasoning, spices and stock and simmer for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Prepare the couscous according to instructions, adding the raisins to the boiling water. Serve the couscous and ladle the vegetables and sauce over the top. This is good either on its own or to accompany grilled or barbecued sausages and meat.