Week 24. Tunisia. Spiced Lamb Shank w/ Harissa Couscous

I’ve been to Tunisia and it rained all week, bar one morning when the sun popped out and scorched me. I came home a rested, sunburned and about 8 kilo- heavier. I ate, you see, –  all the time.

We had gone to an all-inclusive resort on the coast near Hammamet and whilst the sun was supposed to be included I easily replaced what I was missing by gorging at the hotel buffet. I munched through plate after plate of slow roasted spiced meat and whilst I personally steered clear of the dried fruit which seems to find itself into most dishes (not for me) I couldn’t get enough of everything else.

Preparing for the dish this week was really difficult due to this unbelievable weather we have been subjected to. Instead of spending time thinking about dishes, we have been spending time working out how to keep the house warm and keep our balance when we step out onto gritless pavement – shame on you Richmond Council. This weeks dish actually very nearly didn’t happen as when I turned into our road with two bags of food shopping my top half moved into the road and my legs continued forwards, slipping and skidding until I smashed into a snow-covered BMW. To the owners of that BMW I checked for damage and there was none, but you do now have a Joe shape snow dent on your passenger side. When you look at the picture of the Lamb Shank, notice how it thins to the top; that is where my leg pinned it to the car.

A lot of people don’t like couscous, or think they don’t, and Tunisian food is all about it. People go wrong by simply adding boiling water and the result is bland and dries your tongue with every mouthful. You wouldn’t eat a bowl of rice with nothing on it would you, so why do it with couscous? So, I wanted to do this dish as it really is a good example of how to pack flavour in. Tunisian menus contain lots of meat options, so I opted to complement my couscous with lamb.

Harissa is a huge favourite of mine and we eat a lot in my house.  There are many ways to make it, but the general rule is that it needs loads of chillies in it. I have put together a rough recipe below, as I make it, but it is a good sauce to amend to your taste.  I made the couscous in the same way you would usually, but used just half the water I would have done and then used the same again of Harissa. Stir it up and the couscous absorbs the flavour and what you end up with is far from bland.

The dish worked really well but do be aware that it could rack up costs quickly if you are having a few people round. A single lamb shank costs £3.75 from my local butcher, so you can multiply that by the number of people you have round for a start. If you want a cheaper option used diced lamb shoulder, but you would lose the visual effect.

It was a tough week this week with Xmas Parties, long distance travel in the snow, slipping, sliding and hangovers, but this dish was certainly one of the highlights.

Harissa Recipe:

  • 100g of Red Chillies
  • Tbsp Caraway Seeds
  • Tbsp Cumin Seeds
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1tsp Coriander (seeds or ground)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Good glug of quality Olive Oil

Soak the chillies until they are soft and plump (you can do this from dried)

Blitz everything together whilst drizzzling in the oil until you get a thick paste. Done. Beware of the heat.

Spiced Lamb Shank:

I didn’t write down what I did here, but I will give you the general idea as this is the sort of dish which can change each time slightly.

Brown the lamb in a thick bottomed pan and then remove it. In the same pan, in the remaining juices, brown some onions or shallots and then add ground tumeric, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of each). Stir for a couple of minutes and then add 500g of tomatoes (chopped or plum) and let it all stew for 5 mins. Add the lamb back in, put the lid on and put it all in the oven on about 180 degrees for 2 hours. It is a long stew.


One thought on “Week 24. Tunisia. Spiced Lamb Shank w/ Harissa Couscous

  1. Don’t keep us in suspense!!!!

    I like the way you signed out as ‘Harissa’ – is that your new name now?

    Sounds like a perfect dish for a bit of winter warmth. No snow in New York yet but there most certainly will be in months to come. And when it does I’ll be serving some spicy lamb.


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