Stew-pendous: Libyan kusksu

We don’t typically make a lot of stews because Toddler Mash doesn’t typically eat them. A couple of weekends ago, though,we ended up making a lamb cobbler on the Saturday and kusksu (Libyan couscous with spicy beef and vegetables) on the Sunday. He surprised us on the Saturday: after being lured in by the cobbler topping, he actually ate some of the lamb and vegetables. Read on to see whether the Libyan dish was a similar success.

Kusksu (recipe from The Daring Gourmet)

Ingredients (we doubled this)
1lb stewing beef, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 tbsp oil for frying
1 large onion, halved and cut in rings
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
2 carrots, halved
8oz sweet potato (or pumpkin or yam), cut into four chunks
1 tin of chickpeas
1 bay leaf
1 tsp hot chilli powder (we left this out)
2 tbsp hararat (see recipe below)
1/3 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt (we also left this out)
3 cups beef stock
Couscous to serve

For the hararat:
2 cinnamon sticks, each broken into 4 pieces
4 tsp cumin seeds
4 tsp coriander seeds
2 dried red chillies (we left these out)
1 tsp allspice berries


  1. For the hararat, heat a non-stick frying pan and add the spices. Toast until fragrant (about 4 minutes), stirring frequently. Allow to cool and then grind to a powder.
    2. For the stew, heat the oil in a heavy casserole dish over medium-high heat and fry the beef until nicely browned on all sides.
    3. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent (about 5-7 minutes).
    4. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
    5. Add the chilli powder, hararat, tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
    6. Add the vegetables and chickpeas, return to a boil, reduce, and simmer for another 40 minutes until the vegetables and beef are tender and the sauce has thickened.
    7. To serve, arrange the meat and vegetables on top of the couscous then ladle the sauce over everything.

Although this had a great flavour, it wasn’t our finest culinary moment. Most of the beef was incredibly tough, we think because we let it boil for too long instead of gently simmering it. Did this rightly put off meat-refusing Toddler Mash? No. He loved it. Rejected the beautifully barbecued rib-eye Ash served up a week earlier, but asked for seconds of this shoe leather. There really is no accounting for taste, but it did mean we could use a silly pun like ‘stew-pendous’ for the title of this post even though we didn’t cook it that well, because we made something our child actually ate. (Baby Mash was mostly interested in the carrot, incidentally.)

We did eat the leftovers a few days later, by which time the beef had softened, and this was a more enjoyable meal. We also added some prunes to the stew and some flaked almonds on top, which we thought was another improvement, if perhaps not entirely traditional.


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