Middle Eastern Couscous with Honeyed Caramelized Onions and Raisins Kesksou Tfaya



6 servings




2 lbs. lamb, cut into lg. pieces
1/2 lb. onions
Salt and pepper
3/4 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 cloves
1/2 tsp. saffron threads or


2 lbs. onions
1 cup water
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. honey
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup raisins, soaked in water for 20 minutes
1 cup almonds


4 cups couscous
4 cups warm water
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. butter or
extra oil


FOR THE MEAT: Prepare the meaty stew or soup. In a large pan, put the meat and about 1/2 pound onions, coarsely chopped, and cover with about 1 1/2 quarts water. Bring to the boil and remove the scum. Add salt, pepper, the ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and the cloves and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add the saffron and more water to keep the meat well covered (there should be a lot of broth) and simmer for 1/2 hour more. The meat should be so tender you could pull it apart with your hands.

FOR THE TFAYA: For the honeyed onion tfaya, cut the onions in half and slice them. Put them in a pan with about 1 cup water. Put the lid on and cook, covered, over low heat (they will steam) for about 1/2 hour, until the onions are very soft. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add the butter and oil and cook until the onions are golden. Stir in the honey and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, the drained raisins, and a pinch of salt and cook 10 minutes more, or until the onions caramelize and become brown.

Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan or fry them in a drop of oil until golden, turning them over. Coarsely chop about half of them.

FOR THE COUSCOUS: Put the couscous in a wide oven proof dish so that the grains are not squashed on top of each other. (I use a large round clay dish, in which I also serve). Gradually add the warm salted water, stirring all the time so that it is absorbed evenly. Keep fluffing up the grain with a fork and breaking up any lumps (as the grains stick together). After about 10-15 minutes, when the grain is plump and tender, mix in 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and rub the grain between your hands above the bowl, to air it and break up any lumps.

Put the dish, uncovered, in a preheated 400 F. oven and heat through for 15 to 20 minutes, until very hot. After about 10 minutes, fluff it up again with a fork. Before serving, work in 3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil and break up any lumps very thoroughly.

TO SERVE: Make a mound of couscous and make a hollow in the center. Moisten with a ladle of the meat broth. Put the meat in the hollow and cover with the onion and raisin tfaya.

Sprinkle with a mixture of chopped and whole toasted or fried blanched almonds, and serve the broth separately. Alternatively, you might prefer to serve everything separately, or straight into soup plates. Serves 6.

The New Book Of Middle Eastern Food Claudia Roden

Author's Comments

The special feature of this dish is the exquisite mix of honeyed caramelized onions and raisins called tfaya which is served as a topping of the long cooked, deliciously tender meat. The broth which moistens the grain is the meat broth. A sprinkling of fried or toasted almonds is an optional garnish.

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