Mhamsa bel Laft – Pearl Couscous with Turnips

An easy and comforting one-pot pasta recipe: Mhamsa bel Laft – pearl / giant couscous cooked in a lightly cinnamon-spiced mutton and turnip stew.

Nourishing stick-to-your-ribs meals are essential during the colder months.


This is a current favourite of mine to serve for dinner. It is both warming and filling. Setting you up for an early cozy night in.

Mhamsa محمص

Also known as: Berkoukes, Mardood, Aïche and Plombs etc throughout the Maghreb.

The size may vary slightly depending on the name and whether it is hand-rolled or store bought. Berkoukes is said to be the largest.

The sort I’m using is store-bought and goes by the name M’hamsa or Plombs.

Plombs is French for sinkers or lead pellets, indicating pasta shape.

In the UK and other countries pearl or giant couscous is it’s equivalent.

Laft لفت – Turnip


White turnips give a nice sweetness to the dish and pair well with the mutton.

I’m yet to find the name of this variety of turnips online (scouring google regularly).

The ones pictured above (from my lentils recipe) are small. The recipe below asks for two medium.

If you fail to find this elongated variety of turnip where you are, substitute with regular round white turnips that are medium to small in size.

I’m selling this as a one-pot meal however, you can of course cook the stew and pasta seperately. Reduce the amount of water when making the stew to around 3 cups / 750ml.


Mhamsa bel Laft – Pearl Couscous with Turnips

Mhamsa – giant couscous in a mutton and turnip stew. A comforting and easy one-pot pasta dish.

  • ½ tbsp Oil (neutral)
  • 450 g Halal Mutton 3-4 pieces (leg or shoulder pieces – on the bone)
  • 1 Onion (red, coarsely grated)
  • 1 tsp *to taste* Salt (table)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper (freshly ground)
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon / Cassia (ground)
  • ½ tsp Ras el hanout spice mix
  • ¼ tsp Cumin (ground)
  • 1.5 L Water (boiled)
  • 2 medium White Turnips (elongated variety)
  • 1 handful Chickpeas (pre-cooked)
  • 300 g Mhamsa / Pearl Couscous / Plombs (dry)
  1. In a 2-2.5L casserole pot or Dutch oven, over medium-low heat on the smallest burner. Heat oil then add onion, meat, bay leaf and salt, stir to evenly distribute ingredients and cover. Allow to cook a few minutes – turn meat once or twice and cook until onion has softened and meat has browned – lightly.
  2. Add spices, stir, re-cover and cook for a minute or two more, until fragrant. *You may need to reduce heat to prevent spices from burning!* Now add water and bring upto a boil, cover, reduce heat to a steady simmer. Cook for 40 mins. Add turnips and chickpeas then cover and cook for 30-35mins more or, until both meat and turnips are tender.
  3. Remove meat – wrap in foil and keep warm in a low oven. Increase heat to pot, add Mhamsa and cook uncovered for 10-15 mins – See notes. Serve with meat.
  • Seasoning & spices measured with eating utensil.
  • Keep a close eye on the liquid level throughout this last stage of cooking, stir often to check it’s not catching and add more hot water if necessary to cook the pasta to your desired liking.
Mhamsa bel Laft – Pearl Couscous with Turnips
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Mhamsa bel Laft – Pearl Couscous with Turnips

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