This Algerian lamb shoulder stew with couscous is a "one steamer" recipe. My friend, Farida, taught me how to make this authentic Algerian recipe. Tender lamb shoulder stew is slow-cooked below fluffy twice steamed couscous. The fluffy couscous infuses with flavors from the lamb stew making this lamb and couscous recipe absolutely delicious.
If you like hearty stews, check out this one-pot turkey chili and harissa lamb chili.
- Lamb shoulder or veal shoulder: Buy lamb shoulder or veal shoulder with the bond. The bone adds flavor to the broth. Also, buy the meat already cut into large chunks. The chunks of meat cook relatively around the same time as the couscous steams, so everything is ready around the same time.
- Dry couscous: This recipe needs regular dry couscous and not instant couscous. If using instant couscous, just follow the instructions on the package and make the stew in a separate pot.
- Vegetables: This lamb stew uses minced garlic, onions, tomato, carrots, turnips, zucchini, and fresh green beans.
- Herbs: Use freshly chopped parsley and fresh mint.
- Oil and ghee: Use olive oil for the couscous. Use ghee or olive oil for the lamb shoulder stew.
- Tomato paste: Any type of tomato paste will work for this recipe.
- Spices: fresh ground pepper, salt, paprika, ground coriander powder, a bay leaf, and a tad bit of sugar.
How To Make Lamb Shoulder Stew
The biggest tip for making this lamb stew is to prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time. Separate the ingredients just like the image below to streamline cooking the stew.
Season the meat with spices. In a steamer pot, add olive oil, frying oil, or ghee. Brown the meat. Add the minced onions and garlic and cover for 5 minutes. Add the pureed tomato, mint leaves, chopped parsley, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add the carrots, zucchini, and turnips. Mix well and cover for 2 minutes.
Add water to cover the vegetables and lamb. Simmer on medium to medium-high heat for the next hour or until the meat is tender. While the lamb shoulder stew is cooking, boil the green beans in a separate pot for about 10 minutes. Strain the green beans. Add the green beans to the stew at the end.
Cook the couscous on the steamer tray above while the lamb stew is cooking.
How To Make Couscous
In a very large bowl, pour the dry couscous. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Using the hand technique for rubbing the couscous, mix the olive oil and salt into the dry couscous. Add 1.5 cups of room temperature water on top of the couscous without mixing. Allow the couscous to absorb the water and swell for 10 minutes.
Using the hand technique, mix the couscous. Add the couscous to the steamer. A few pieces of couscous will fall through the holes in the steamer, this is normal. Put the steamer basket on top of the lamb stew and keep it uncovered. Monitor the couscous. After about 10 minutes, the steam will start to come off the couscous. Start a 5-minute timer. The couscous should be steaming without a cover.
Pour the couscous into a very large bowl. Add 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix with a spoon because it's hot. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Using the hand technique, roll the couscous between your hands separating the couscous grains.
Add the couscous to the steamer basket a second time. Place the steamer basket on top of the lamb stew without a cover. Do not cover couscous with a lid. Wait until steam starts rising off of the couscous (about 10 minutes) and then start a 5-minute timer.
Remove the couscous from the steamer into a very large bowl. Allow it to cool. Using the hand technique, roll the couscous between your palms. The couscous should be fluffy and tender.
Tips and Tricks
- You can use dry couscous or instant couscous. If using instant couscous, follow the instructions on the bag.
- Save time by steaming couscous in the steamer tray right above the lamb stew.
- The steamer tray will have holes larger than the couscous. This is normal and very little couscous will actually fall through the holes.
- Simmer the stew while steaming the couscous. I prefer steaming the couscous above the stew for ultra fluffy and flavorful couscous.
A Note On The History Of Couscous
Farida was kind enough to explain some of the origin and history of couscous in her note below.
Yennayer, which for the etymologists of the Amazigh language means “the first month”, marks the beginning of the Berber year or the Amazigh year used since antiquity by the Berbers in North Africa. The first day corresponds to the first day of January of the Julian Calendar, which is shifted thirteen days compared to the Gregorian calendar. For this occasion, several traditional dishes can be prepared but couscous remains the most popular to celebrate Yennayer.
Couscous is a traditional dish very popular in the countries of North Africa. Historians attribute the origin of couscous to the Berber tradition. Being a descendant of the Berber of Kabylia myself, I had the chance to inherit from a young age this knowledge from my mother who herself inherited it from her mother.
At a young age, I used to lay everything out on the table to practice rolling couscous from scratch using fine semolina, water, and two different sieves. Precise hand gestures and steps must be followed to achieve good regular grits. These grains are then steamed twice and must be handled with delicacy in order to keep the lightness of the couscous.
It is true that nowadays it is easy to find ready-to-use dry couscous. But most Berber women and Kabyles especially, roll their couscous themselves at home mainly during the summertime, to dry it in the open air and keep it for the winter. These women also gather to prepare large quantities for weddings especially, which adds a particularly festive atmosphere to these celebrations.
This dish, which can be tasted sweet or salty, is prepared for everyday meals, but also for most events throughout the year. The couscous is adapted according to the vegetables of the season. We can therefore prepare the sauce with dried beans, chickpeas, or with pumpkin or cardoon during fall or wintertime. It is often served with hot pepper for spicy lovers.
It is also traditional to prepare couscous without sauce, it is then steamed with peas, fava beans, or a mixture of different vegetables. The sweet version is prepared with dried fruits like raisins, generally, they are served with a glass of sour milk (leban) usually for the suhoor of the holy month of Ramadan.Farida
- Steamer pot
- Chef's knife and cutting board
- Large bowl (to rub the couscous with your hands)
How To Store
Store couscous and lamb stew in separate containers in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat the stew in the microwave or in a pot on the stovetop. Reheat couscous in the microwave.
Other Steamer Recipes
Are you looking for other recipes you can make using your steamer? Try Chinese steamed buns, steamed sweet potatoes, and steamed crab legs.
Middle Eastern Inspired Lamb Recipes
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Algerian Lamb Shoulder Stew With Couscous
- 2.2 lbs lamb shoulder or veal shoulder with the bone (cut into large pieces)
- 1 lb couscous
- 1 large onion or 2 small onions
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 large carrots
- 2 medium turnips
- 1 large zucchini or 5 baby zucchini
- 2 cups fresh green beans
- ½ cup of chopped fresh parsley
- 2 fresh mint leaves or 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon ghee
- 1 medium tomato
- 3 tablespoon of tomato paste
- salt to taste about 1 tbsp
- ½ tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Prepare the Lamb Stew
- In a bowl, add the paprika, ground coriander, salt, pepper, and meat. Mix together with your hands very well.
- Chop the onions and garlic very finely. Chop the parsley finely. Mince the tomato finely. Set aside.
- Peel and chop the carrots and turnips in the same size. Chop the zucchini in the same size. Set aside.
- In the steamer pot on medium-high heat, add the ghee, olive oil, or frying oil. Add the meat and brown for about 2 minutes.
- Add the chopped onions and minced garlic. Cover the pot and cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, minced tomatoes, chopped parsley, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 2 fresh mint leaves. Continue to cook on medium-high heat covered for about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the chopped carrots, turnips, and zucchini. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes covered.
- Add 4.25 cups (about 1 liter) of hot water to the steamer pot. Make sure that there is about 1" to 2" of space from the top of the pot for the steamer tray. Continue cooking the lamb stew for about 1 hour on medium-high heat. The couscous will steam on top of the lamb stew as it continues to cook.
- Cut the ends off the fresh green beans. Boil on high with water for 10 to 15 minutes until cooked. Drain and set aside.
Prepare the Couscous
- In a very large bowl, pour the dry couscous. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Rub the couscous between your palms to mix the olive oil and salt into the dry couscous. Add 1.5 cups of room temperature water on top of the couscous without mixing. Allow the couscous to absorb the water and swell for 10 minutes.
- Mix the couscous by rubbing it between your palms. Add the couscous to the steamer. A few pieces of couscous will fall through the holes in the steamer, this is normal. Put the steamer basket on top of the lamb stew and keep it uncovered. Monitor the couscous. After about 10 minutes, the steam will start to come off the couscous. Start a 5-minute timer. The couscous should be steaming without a cover.
- Pour the couscous into a very large bowl. Add 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix with a spoon because it's hot. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Using the hand technique, roll the couscous between your hands separating the couscous grains.
- Add the couscous to the steamer basket a second time. Place the steamer basket on top of the lamb stew without a cover. The couscous should never be covered with a lid. Wait until steam starts rising off of the couscous (about 10 minutes) and then start a 5-minute timer.
- Remove the couscous from the steamer into a very large bowl. Allow it to cool. Using the hand technique, roll the couscous between your palms. The couscous should be fluffy and tender.
- If using instant couscous, prepare the couscous per the bag instructions.
- Other lamb or veal cuts can be substituted.
This was hard to make the first time, not going to lie. I had to keep the recipe on my iPad and referring to it step by step. But it is one of the best tasting stews I’ve ever had. I also made the couscous on your blog. Again, a lot of back and forth to making, but both recipes were worth it. I felt transported to my visit in North Africa.
This recipe is one of my favorites and you're right... there are a lot of steps. Especially for anyone who hasn't made couscous or North African food before. Thanks for the comment!