There is a common misconception that if you love to cook, especially if you cook and create recipes for a living, you must be making restaurant-worthy meals every day at home.
It’s often the opposite. I might make a three course meal for clients at work, and by the time I’ve shopped, prepared, cooked, served, and cleaned up I just want a toasted sandwich for dinner!
Much as I like a toasted sandwich, though, we can’t eat those every night of the week (and what would I talk about here if I did?!) so today I’m going to share this Moroccan couscous with lamb tenderloins. It’s my latest ‘assembly job’ dinner, most of which can be done ahead of time for a 20 minute fridge-to-table dinner later on.
Moroccan couscous with lamb is healthy, bright and can be doubled or tripled quite easily for a crowd, plus it’s smart enough that any lucky dinner guests will think you slaved over it all afternoon. And there’s this: it reheats just as well the next day, or if you’re out and about, it makes a great packed lunch with a handful of salad leaves thrown in.
Until I had a steam oven I didn’t think I liked pearl couscous as it was always a little ‘gluggy’ when made on the stove, but now I’m a convert. The texture of these toasted pasta-like spheres is somehow lighter and more appealing thanks to the more gentle and even heat of the steam oven. Give it a go if you’ve been put off in the past or you’ve never tried it before.
See you back here soon.
*also, have you followed the blog’s Facebook page or Instagram feed yet?? All the ‘proper’ recipes happen here but I often litter Insta and FB with teasers and other things I’m cooking. Oh, ok, more often with things I’m eating. Semantics.
Moroccan Couscous with Lamb Tenderloins
- 1 sweet potato a smallish one, peeled and diced into 1"/2.5cm cubes
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 onion small, or half a large one, finely diced
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds pepitas
- ¼ cup flaked almonds
- 1.3 lb lamb loin fillets sometimes labelled as fillets or tenderloins, or you can use lamb backstraps instead
- 2 tsp ras el hanout a North African blend roughly translating to ‘top of the shop’. It’s a mixture of many different ground spices – upwards of a dozen – so there’s no singular substitute.
- salt for seasoning
- black pepper for seasoning
- 1 cup pearl couscous also labelled as pearl, Israeli, or giant couscous but as far as I know they’re all the same thing
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dried dates diced
- 1/4 cup coriander leave only, roughly chopped
- 2 oz Persian feta drained weight
- Set your oven to 400⁰F/200⁰C, combination steam setting. If your oven has variable steam settings, use 60%. If not, don't worry! Just set to combi steam at the correct temperature and the oven will figure out the humidity for you. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Spread the sweet potato onto the tray and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Remove and tip into a bowl.
- If you’re making the whole meal immediately, change oven setting to 212⁰F/100⁰C on steam setting (it will take a few minutes to cool down to this temp but I find it’s pretty close by the time I’m ready to put the couscous in).
- Heat the oil in a frypan over medium heat and fry the onion until translucent. Remove from heat, scrape into the bowl of sweet potato and set aside. If you’re not going to make the rest of the dish until later, cover and refrigerate.
- Add the pepitas and almonds to the frypan and cook until toasty and golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Mix the ras el hanout, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub half of this mixture over the lamb fillets and set them aside.
- Mix the other half of the spices with the stock. Put the couscous and stock into a tray (I use the same one I cooked the sweet potato in, minus the parchment paper. It’s all about minimizing dishes!). Steam for 15 minutes, then stir and add the dates, onions and sweet potato and steam for a further 5 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and change setting to 450⁰F/230⁰C on combination steam (again, 60% steam if you have the option).
- Cook the lamb for about 5 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Mine took exactly 5 minutes to cook to medium-ish (what you see in the photos).
- While the lamb is cooking, mix the nuts and seeds, coriander and feta through the couscous ready for serving. Rest the lamb for a few minutes before slicing and serve everything warm with natural yoghurt and a green salad on the side.
- This serves 4 as a light meal. If you’re big eaters I’d add more lamb and double the couscous quantities. In fact, I double the couscous anyway for easy (meat-free) leftovers lunch.
- The couscous is a riff on my friend Diane’s recipe, written for Neff (original here). Given my view that a warmed, puffy sultana should never feature anywhere on my plate, I’ve adapted Diane’s version somewhat to include dates. And because I just can’t leave a good thing as is, there are a few other changes as well – sweet potato for pumpkin, Persian feta for regular, coriander for parsley…you get the idea. Both versions are really tasty, and both benefit from the addition of chopped preserved lemon, though it’s a bit much for the smallest member of our household and tends to be kept for the grown-ups meal.
- Lamb tenderloins/fillets are expensive and I think there are definitely more flavoursome cuts around, but they can’t be beaten for super-fast cooking and minimal preparation. The steam oven renders them incredibly moist and although you could sear them in a hot frypan before they hit the oven, in this case I didn’t bother. The spice rub gives enough colour and the cooking time is so quick that I’m willing to sacrifice a little browning for the ease of getting dinner on the table fast. Not to mention no splattered frypan or cooktop to clean.
- We serve this with natural yoghurt and green salad on the side, but it’s lovely just as it is.
- Finally, I know this looks like a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, but once you’ve chopped and pre-cooked the onions and sweet potato, and toasted the nuts/seeds, it’s just a matter of throwing everything together and changing the oven settings as you go. I hope you’ll find it as easy as I do once you’ve tried it.
*But I don’t have a steam/combi-steam oven! You can roast the sweet potato at the same temperature in a conventional oven; steam or cook the couscous on the stove (for one-pot cooking, bring the stock to the boil before adding the couscous and turning right down to absorb – it’ll take around 15 minutes); and pan fry the lamb fillets in a bit of oil until cooked to your liking.