Moroccan spiced mince with minty lemon couscous

MINCEIt is not often where you find a recipe being fantastic due to the starch that you use with it. Rice is rice, mash is mash and couscous is couscous, right? Wrong. The couscous, humble as it may be, makes transforms this dish from a guitar riff to a full symphony concerto. You won’t believe this if you don’t try it. It taught me the valuable lesson that we may believe that the effort should go into the main dish, whilst the combination of the main and the starch makes the dish. I have never tasted couscous this good. The lemon and mint infuses into the couscous in a way that just surprises you. The couscous dish was scraped clean at the end of the meal, whilst there was still some meat left.

Moroccan food and Moroccan spiced mince is actually made for slow-cooking. I realised afterwards that we should have used the tagine to make this dish, as it just works better. What I learned from the Indian cooking I do is that you have to develop the taste of the spices. So, in the process, I dry-fried the cumin before adding the oil to the pan. The roasting just pops the flavour out of the spices. The same with the turmeric. Cooking it into the onions not only colours the onions beautifully, but the bitterness of the turmeric just melds with the sweetness of the onion.

When I tasted the dish after 20 minutes I decided to add the Worcestershire Sauce and the sweet chili sauce. It was as if the flavours weren’t coming together properly. I don’t know what it is about Worcestershire sauce, but it has the incredible ability to pull tastes together. The sweet chili brings a sweet spiciness to the dish that also compliments the minty lemon couscous well.


Oil for frying
2Onions, diced
700 grMinced meat
30 ml (2 tblsp)Ground cumin
10 ml (2 teasp)Ground cinnamon
20 ml (4 teasp)Ground turmeric
100 gApricots, dried, quartered
600 mlVegetable stock
15mlWorcestershire Sauce
30mlSweet Chili Sauce
For couscous:
280 grCouscous
2 lemons for zestGrated zest of 2 lemons
4 tbspFresh Mint (out of the garden), chopped
50 grUnsalted cashews, toasted under the grill. They turn golden and shiny if done right.


  1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan, add the onions and the spices and cook gently for 5 minutes until the onions soften.
  2. Stir in the minced meat and brown,  then add the apricots and stock.
  3. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and cook gently for a minimum of 10-15 minutes (if you use freshly ground beef. If you use frozen mince, then take my advice on the slow cooking method). As I like the slow cooking approach, I simmered it for 45 minutes at a low heat. This infused the sweetness of the apricots into the dish and developed the spice flavour beautifully.
  4. Meanwhile, make up the couscous following the packet instructions – it will take about 450ml boiling water to give it a nice fluffy texture.
  5. Fork through the lemon zest and mint. Season to taste.
  6. Spoon the couscous onto serving plates, pile the meat mixture on top and scatter with the cashews.



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