Taam / Couscous with meat & vegetables

Taam / Couscous with meat and vegetables

Taam / Couscous with meat and vegetables: a North African dish of lightly spiced stewed mutton and vegetables on a bed of fluffy steamed couscous. Then covered in sauce as desired.

I know, I know, posting one recipe a month is very low output from me.

I haven’t been motivated to try any new dishes in my kitchen for a very long time plus I’m trying to make each recipe I post quality i.e. with step-by-step photos. Good idea but very tedious work.

I don’t know if this lack of motivation is due to:

  1. Lack of readily available ingredients, I’m missing the convenience of British online food shopping.
  2. Lack of people or rather person to cook for (my husband is still working in England).
  3. Or, I’ve just fallen out of love with cooking full stop. There I’ve said it.

I don’t cook couscous very often these days because:

  • Most of my children don’t care for it, served sweet or savoury
  • It takes time and effort, unlike the instant couscous you add boiling water to and fluff-up minutes later.

On special occasions such as Eid or when I’m simply craving couscous comfort I make the effort. Even if it’s only for my youngest son and I.

One thing I don’t complain about, is having leftovers for dinner the next day.

What’s in a Name?

Taam or rather طعام in arabic means food. It’s the name a lot of Algerians give to couscous, signifying its importance in the Algerian culture.

Basically, if you have couscous you need little else.

Couscous is also the national dish of neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia.

How are you being served?

Taam in the Maghreb countries of North Africa is served in many ways: with butter, with leben – buttermilk, fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts and honey, legumes, meat (white or red) and vegetables sauce, fish.

The Key is in the Cooking

Yet in all these different ways of serving couscous, the cooking method is the same, steaming. Couscous is steamed in a Kiskis or Couscoussièr – a traditional double chambered food steamer, made from traditional ceramic or from metal.

Steaming can be done over water, or like I’m showing you today, over a broth-like sauce.

Turnip or not Turnip?

In my similar, more heavily spiced Algerian couscous recipe I didn’t use  white turnips – the ones that look like carrots but are totally white.

I can’t find any reference to this variety of turnip online, which has stumped me somewhat.

Now that I’m living in Algeria, I can’t imagine eating couscous and meat/chicken sauce without these white turnips, they give such a good flavour to the dish. If you can’t get the type of turnip I so poorly described, use the round variety.

Weird Family Fact: My husband and some other members of his family (including now my youngest son) will scoop up with and eat the Taam / Couscous with a layer of a raw onion!

Do let me know if you try that method of eating couscous…and I’m guessing it’s only as weird as my eating of cheese and raw onion sandwiches?!?

On to the lengthy recipe….

Taam / Couscous with meat & vegetables

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Serving Size: 4

Steamed couscous with a lightly-spiced meat and vegetables sauce.


    • for the broth-like sauce:
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 500g medium-sized Halal Mutton pieces (on or off the bone)
    • 1 large Red Onion, grated or finely chopped in a food processor
    • 2 medium White Turnips
    • 2 medium Carrots
    • 1 medium Courgette
    • handful of pre-cooked Chickpeas
    • 1+ teaspoon Salt (to taste)
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
    • 1.5 litres hot Water
For the steaming of the couscous:
  • 300g Couscous (not instant or pre-cooked)
  • Extra-Virgin Olive oil
  • Water
  • Salt


    • In the base pot of your keskes/couscoussier, over medium heat, add oil followed by meat, onion and salt, stir everything together then cover pot and allow to cook a few minutes, meanwhile….
    • Prepare vegetables; fully peel the skins from turnips and carrots and peel only strips of the courgette skin. Chop the vegetables into medium batons, set aside.
    • Add spices to the meat and onion, stir and allow to cook a minute or two until fragrant.
    • Add vegetable batons along with a handful of chickpeas followed by the water. Cover to bring upto a boil, lower heat to simmer.

First Steaming of Couscous:

    • Place couscous in a large bowl and using a fork stir, or traditionally with your hands-rub, in about a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Followed by 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water (not hot water).
    • Grease steaming basket with a little evoo or butter. Place it on base pot of couscoussier, when you see steam coming out of the basket then it’s time to add your couscous. Tip couscous into basket and gently level-out with your hand. Cover basket with lid, wet a long clean cloth or strips of newspaper and carefully wrap around where the base pot joins to the basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes.
Second Steaming of Couscous:
    • Carefully (it’s hot!) remove the wet cloth/newspaper, lid and basket of couscous.Cover the base pot and allow sauce to continue cooking while you work with the couscous.
    • Tip couscous from basket back into bowl, stir a generous pinch of salt followed by 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Uncover sauce, place empty basket on the base pot, wait until steam comes through, add couscous, level-out, on with lid, wrap wet cloth around the joining of pot to basket. Allow to steam for a further 20 minutes.

Third and Final Steaming:

    • As mentioned above; remove the basket, tip out couscous into bowl, this time no salt, stir in 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water. Steam for the last 20 minutes.
To Serve:
    • Turn off the heat, remove couscous, stir in a generous drizzle of evoo or butter (or even a smidgen of smen – salted femernted butter), to fluff up and seperate couscous grains.
    • Taste sauce and adjust consistency to your desired liking –  for example, need more sauce? = add more water and salt and cook for a little longer time.
    • Serve couscous warm decorated with meat and vegetables and covered in as much sauce as desired.


    *I personally like using a fork to stir in the water and other ingredients into the couscous as it saves time. Rubbing with your hand means you have to allow the couscous grains to cool down after steaming before handling. Of course I’ve seen my Algerian mother and sister in law handle hot couscous, turn over hot bread with their hands like it’s nothing, but for those of us with normal pain thresholds, I feel a fork is definitely the way forward.

    **If you like it hot, stir in harissa spice paste at the beginning of the sauce making or swirl in at serving.

    Taam / Couscous with meat & vegetables
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    Taam / Couscous with meat & vegetables

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