Lamb and Vegetable Tajine with Chickpea Couscous


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into large dice
  • 8 to 10 sprigs each parsley and cilantro, tied together
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Heaping teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1 pound couscous
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Black or white pepper to taste
Vegetables and final assembly:
  • 1 pound baby artichokes
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, split lengthwise if large, and cut into 1-inch sections
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, sliced across into 1-inch slabs, then cut into wedges
  • 1 pound zucchini, halved or quartered lengthwise, cut across into 1-inch sections
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup raisins,soaked in a little warm water until plump
  • Harissa or Southeast Asian-style red chile and garlic paste
Time Estimates

Prep time: 1 hr  

Cook time: 2 hrs  

Total time: 3 hrs  


  1. To make the broth, heat about half the oil in a large saucepan or stockpot over medium heat. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and start them browning in the oil. Meanwhile, toss the sliced onions with the ginger, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, and the remaining oil. When the shanks are well browned, push them aside and add the onion mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spices are quite fragrant. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, herb bundle, bay leaf, salt, and water to cover by about 1 inch. Simmer until the meat is quite tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  2. About an hour before serving time, spread the couscous in a large, shallow bowl (the bowl you will serve in is fine). Pour in enough cool water to barely cover the grains, then pour off as much water as possible, holding the grains back with your hand. Spread the grains out in an even layer and let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the warm water, oil, and seasonings, and bring at least 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of a couscoussière or a pot with a metal colander fitted into the top. Moisten your hands with a little of the seasoned water and rub the soaked couscous between your hands to break up the clumps. Continue rubbing and moistening until the mixture is evenly crumbly, then gradually scatter it over the inside of the couscoussière. Cook uncovered until the couscous grains have swelled noticeably, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, start preparing the vegetables: Remove the outer artichoke leaves until the leaves are more yellow than green. Slice off the top third of the artichoke and pare away any dark green parts on the stem end (but leave some stem attached). Split lengthwise, and if the chokes are developed, cut them out of each half with the tip of a knife or a melon scoop. Drop the prepared artichokes into a bowl of water acidulated with a little lemon juice or vinegar.
  4. After the first steaming, carefully remove the top of the couscoussière and dump the steamed couscous out into the bowl. As soon as the couscous has cooled enough to handle, rub it again between your hands, adding more of the seasoned water. Repeat the steaming, cooling, and rubbing steps. Meanwhile, continue with the vegetable preparations.
  5. When the lamb is tender, remove the shanks from the pot, discard the herb bundle, and skim as much fat as possible from the surface. Add the artichokes to the lamb broth 30 minutes before serving time. Add the carrots, sweet potato, and squash 10 minutes later, and return the couscous to the couscoussière for a final steaming. Add the zucchini and cauliflower for the last 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pull the lamb meat off the bones, cut it into bite-size pieces, and add them back to the broth. Check the broth for seasoning and adjust if needed.
  6. Turn the steamed couscous out into the serving dish, and mix in the chickpeas and raisins. Shape it into a wide mound with a well in the center. Spoon the lamp and vegetable mixture into the center with a slotted spoon, and ladle some of the broth over the couscous. Pass additional broth at the table, some plain and some mixed with harissa.


Makes 8 servings

Good to know

In a Moroccan banquet, the couscous comes last, with its own accompaniment of broth, vegetables, and meat, and there is often another fragrant stew (called a tajine) served earlier in the meal. In this more casual, family-style menu, the two are combined, with the broth from the tajine used to moisten the couscous, and the vegetables and lamb heaped on top.

Which beer should I drink with this?

Amber or pale ale, Märzen.



1. A couple of lamb shanks split eight ways is not a lot of meat, but that’s just the point. This is mostly a dish of grain and vegetables, with a rich, spicy lamb broth accented by a few bits of meat. Feel free to add more lamb (cubes of shoulder meat work well) if you want a meatier dish.

2. I’ve adapted this from a recipe by Mohamed Ben Mchabcheb (L’Olive restaurant, Chicago) in Fine Cooking, March 2000. Don’t be alarmed by the number of ingredients and steps; much of the vegetable prep work can be done while the broth simmers and the couscous alternately steams and rests.

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Photo: Alison Miksch/Jupiterimages

Lamb and Vegetable Tajine with Chickpea Couscous
In a Moroccan banquet, the couscous comes last, with its own accompaniment of broth, vegetables, and meat, and there is often another fragrant stew (called a ta