Quick Dinner: Spicy Lamb and Prunes with Couscous

Lamb with prunes, served with couscous
I’m going to have to make this again to get a picture …

School is back and we really need to get back into our menu planning. Not only does it get us organised, it also means we try out new stuff.

Last week we enjoyed a prawn curry recipe which came out of one of my old Olive magazines. I’d last made it in 2004 and written it out on a card to go in my recipe box. The Olive magazine was excellent (it may well still be – I’m just not in England buying it any more!) and that inspired me to delve into the cupboard where the mags are languishing and fish one out at random.

Which is funny because I pulled out a March issue: the recipes were the antithesis of seasonal and it seemed to have a strong baking focus. I’m not sure that either treacle or bakewell tarts would have cut it for dinner.

So even though I didn’t like the sound of ‘spicy lamb and prunes on pistachio couscous’ it was my best bet. It was from a section on weeknight food, where the recipes are for 2 and promise to be ready in 30 minutes. I often find that these kind of timings are at best optimistic and at worst erratic. However, in this instance, it was pretty close to the mark. I made work for myself because my prunes were stone in and I made up my own harissa-like marinade, but they’re definitely optional extras.

I’m so glad I tried this because, despite my reservations, it was excellent. The bonus was that my butcher sold me the lamb neck fillets for just $10.99/kilo (I was expecting to be in backstrap territory but happily no!) making it a very cheap meal.

You do have to be careful cooking lamb neck. You either cook it long and slow (often on the bone in things like curries) or super-fast. This is definitely the latter. On the plate it was occasionally a little tough to cut but in the mouth it was fine.

Whatever you do, do not omit the mint. It gives the dish a fresh lift. I cannot recommend growing your own mint highly enough – it does require quite a lot of water but you are rewarded with a vigorous and easy to grow herb that has plenty of uses.

Quick Dinner: Spicy Lamb and Prunes with Couscous

Serving Size: 2

Adapted from Olive magazine, March 2004. This serves two but the chances are you will have a little left over.


  • 350g lamb neck fillet (probably around 6 fillets), cut into thick slices
  • 1 tbsp harissa (or make your own marinade with oil, garlic, chilli, ground cumin & ground coriander)
  • 100g prunes, roughly chopped
  • 150mL vegetable stock
  • 100g couscous
  • 50g walnuts
  • handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • lemon wedges


  1. Begin by mixing the lamb and harissa together in a bowl. Set to one side to marinate.
  2. Put the prunes in a mug and just cover with boiling water. Set aside.
  3. Put the couscous in a bowl, pour over the hot stock. Cover and set aside.
  4. Roughly chop the walnuts.
  5. Heat a dry frying pan. When hot, add the lamb and cook for 2 minutes on each side so it's well browned. Lamb neck does have some fat on it so you probably won't need to add any to the pan. If you do, only add a little.
  6. Add the prunes and what remains of their soaking liquid. Allow the water to bubble and scrape the bottom of the pan. This is your sauce after all! Cook until your lamb is cooked how you like it.
  7. Mix the walnuts through the couscous and stir the mint through the lamb just prior to serving.
  8. Serve the lamb and prunes on top of the couscous, with lemon wedges on the side.

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