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Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Couscous and Date Stuffing (Dala M’Aamra Bi Kesksou Wa Tmar)

Claudia Roden

by Claudia Roden from Arabesque

An inviting roast lamb recipe inspired by Moroccan flavours that will have your home smelling of delicious spices. The pull-apart lamb shoulder is served with sticky date stuffing.

From the book

Claudia Roden


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 with your fingers.

The stuffing 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. For the dates, use the Tunisian Deglet Nour or Californian varieties that you can find in supermarkets.

A shoulder of spring lamb is always fat but most of the fat melts away during the long cooking. If it appears too fatty, as might be the case with an older lamb, carefully remove some of the fat before cooking. Alternatively, you may use leg of lamb instead of shoulder.

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1 shoulder of lamb (weighing about 1.5-2kg)
salt and black pepper
250g fine or medium couscous
1 tbsp orange blossom water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
150g dates, stoned and cut into small pieces
50g raisins
100g blanched almonds, chopped coarsely
65g butter, cut into small pieces
8 dates, to garnish
8 blanched almonds, to garnish

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Put the joint, skin side up, in a baking dish or roasting pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in an oven pre-heated to 240°C/475°F/Gas 9 for 15 minutes. Then lower the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 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 into another baking dish, and add the same volume of warm water – about 300ml – 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 grain 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 into 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 stone from each date and replace with the blanched almonds. Serve the meat with the couscous stuffing decorated with these dates.

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