Za’atar lamb with giant couscous

by Nicole Pisani

A versatile Middle Eastern dish, perfect for children

This versatile recipe was inspired by one of my Family table articles, answering a question from a parent. Basically it’s any kind of mince, couscous and vegetable stock. You add the ‘flavour’ of your choice while cooking the mince on the hob. You might fancy a little Thai green or red curry paste mixed with coconut milk, or in this case za’atar for a subtle Middle Eastern flavour of thyme. A few fresh herbs are always good too, especially basil. The giant couscous has a texture like mini pasta. It’s a very handy staple to have around. We grew the leaves on our windowsill for a bit of greenery. If you involve children in growing even the simplest things like cress, you might find them more likely to have a try, especially if they get to pick them and scatter over their own plate. You might like a little natural yoghurt served with this dish.


400g turkey or lamb mince
A little groundnut or olive oil
1 tbsp za’atar
1 preserved lemon, finely sliced
2 tbsp pine nuts
Fresh chopped herbs
200g giant couscous
500ml vegetable stock
Salad leaves or cress, to serve


In a large bowl, mix the mince with your curry paste or spices and leave to marinate for a half hour if you have time.

Heat the vegetable stock in a pan and once boiling add the couscous. Reduce to a fast simmer until the couscous is cooked, about 8-10 mins.

Meanwhile, saute the marinated mince in a hot pan with a little groundnut or olive oil. After a minute add the za’atar and stir through as the mince cooks. Add the preserved lemon slices and continue to cook for about 10 mins.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and toast the pine nuts until a pale golden colour. Stir these through the mince, along with the fresh herbs.

Add the mince to the couscous and stock and stir through. Ladle into bowls and scatter over leaves.

Recipe: Nicole Pisani