This is sumptuous and extremely easy. The meat is cooked very slowly for a long time until it is meltingly tender and you can pull the meat off the bones with your fingers. The stuffing—it is the traditional stuffing for a whole lamb—is sweet with dates and raisins and crunchy with almonds. (In Morocco, they add sugar or honey but that makes it too sweet for me.) The couscous needs plenty of butter as there is no sauce, but you can substitute oil if you prefer. Try to get the fine-ground variety of couscous called seffa, otherwise use the ordinary medium-ground one. For the dates, use the Tunisian Deglet Nour or Californian varieties that you can find in supermarkets.
- 1 shoulder of lamb (about 3 to 4½ pounds)
- Salt and black pepper
- 1¼ cups couscous
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
- 5 ounces (not quite 1 cup) dates, pitted and cut into small pieces
- 1/3 cup raisins
- ½ cup blanched almonds, chopped coarsely
- 2/3 stick (5½ tablespoons) butter, cut into small pieces
- To garnish:
- 8 dates
- 8 blanched almonds
Put the lamb skin side up in a baking dish or roasting pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in an oven preheated to 475°F for 15 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350°F and cook for 3 hours, until the skin is crisp and brown and the meat is juicy and meltingly tender. Pour off the fat after about 2 hours.
For the stuffing, put the couscous in another baking dish, and add the same volume of warm water, about 1¼ cups, mixed with a little salt, the orange blossom water, and cinnamon. Stir well so that the water is absorbed evenly. After about 10 minutes, add the oil, and rub the couscous between your hands to air it and break up any lumps. Mix in the remaining ingredients, apart from the butter, cover with foil, and put in the oven with the lamb for the last 20 minutes, or until it is steaming hot.
Before serving, stir in the butter so that it melts in and is absorbed evenly. With a fork, fluff up the couscous stuffing, breaking up any lumps. Add a little salt to taste, if necessary.
For the garnish, remove the pits from each date and replace them with the blanched almonds. Serve the meat with the couscous stuffing decorated with these dates.
Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, and is based on using a 3 pound shoulder of lamb. This recipe serves 5.