That low, slow road to Morocco

Lamb and couscous

Lamb and couscous

Gourmandistan cannot claim expertise on Morocco. American popular culture leads us to believe the North African country has an Express that leaves the smell of gardens in your hair, a certain avenue leading to Dorothy Lamour, and shockingly, gambling at Rick’s in Casablanca. Of course, Wikipedia can further enlighten us, but we’d rather turn to the pages of Claudia Roden’s Arabesque. We found this particular dish when searching for a way to deal with a lamb-share primal shoulder. Whole shoulders are tricky, with many knobs and connect-y bits that make carving a nightmare, and we liked the idea of roasting it whole. The shoulder, roasted with only salt and pepper seasoning, had a crusty outside and meltingly tender inside that wouldn’t have felt out of place in an Owensboro barbecue pit, much less (Bing Crosby assures us) a restaurant in Rabat. Our version of the couscous is at best Americanized Moroccan, but the buttery almonds, dates, currants and hint of cinnamon add a sense of the oasis, we’re sure. Play it again, Nash!


(adapted from Claudia Roden’s Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon)

  • 1 bone-in shoulder of lamb, about 3 to 4-1/2 pounds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-1/4 c. couscous
  • 1-1/4 c. stock or  water
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 c. dates, pitted and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 c. currants
  • 1/2 c. toasted slivered blanched almonds
  • 5-1/2 TB butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 475° F. Sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper, then place the shoulder skin side up in a baking or roasting pan. Bake at 475° for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350° F and cook for 3 hours until the skin is crispy and brown, the meat very tender. (Pour off as much fat as you can after 2 hours.)

Using an oven-safe pot, brown the couscous on the stove in a few tablespoons of the butter, stirring constantly. When the couscous has a nutty aroma, add the stock or water (add a bit of salt if using water) and the pinch of cinnamon. Stir well so that the liquid is absorbed evenly. Turn off heat and cover. After about 10 minutes, add remaining butter and fluff the couscous a bit, breaking up any lumps. Then, mix in the remaining ingredients.  Cover the pot and put it in the oven with the lamb for the last 20 or so minutes of baking, until it’s steaming hot.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


  1. The recipe sounds delicious. I make a couscous that I serve at room temperature with pine nuts and raisins that I posted this summer. Now it can’t wait to try this version for fall and winter meals. Thank you for posting the recipe.

  2. Walter M Jones

    It sounds delicious and comparatively simple. Unfortunately as my wife likes neither lamb or couscous, I’ll never make it.

  3. Wonderful title; so witty. The dish is so elegant and exotic – yet the preparation straightforward and moderate in difficulty. This dish will impress company. I am, admittedly, salivating over the tender lamb in the photo. You both eat like royalty; I will add this to my list of “recipes to try” from your blog. Warm regards, Shanna

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