Harissa Roasted Lamb

Moroccan Dinner-lamb

One more summer adventure to tell you about and then I’ll be done. I can then get down to some serious pumpkin cooking and baking….not. I’m glad to see though that the pumpkin craze is a bit milder this year. Honestly, how many dishes can you really destroy with pumpkin before people revolt? OK, OK, I’ll stop with the pumpkin negativity 🙂 I know there are people who wait all year for this season and I don’t want to ruin it for them.

Custom Vent Hood

Their beautiful kitchen with new cabinets, range hood and Thermador appliances

The last fun event I was fortunate enough to attend and work, was a dinner that was sponsored by Specialty Appliance, and Kitchens by Wedgewood. I had the fortune to be asked to cater the dinner and the event. The purpose of the dinner was so our clients could welcome their guests to the newly remodelled kitchen where they could admire the new cabinetry, the Raw Urth range hood and the new Thermador appliances in action.


This could be my cookbook photo?

I supplied the action, and the dinner, of course. It was pretty nerve wracking to take over someone else’s brand new kitchen to cook a whole dinner! However, the clients were so wonderful and put me at ease and I went about doing what I do best (amongst other things 🙂 ), cooking.

Moroccan Dinner-8

Raw Urth range hood, this is an absolutely beautiful work of art and functionality.

I had met with the hosts of the dinner beforehand so we could discuss what kind of menu appealed to them and what kind of food they’d like to serve that evening. They are really laid back and casual and a fun couple. They have such a beautiful home up in the mountains by Boulder Canyon.

Moroccan Dinner

We decided on a Moroccan inspired menu and I set about making a menu. Since Morocco has such a strong French influence, I used a lot of French inspiration with a Moroccan twist. Rather than write, I’ll let the photos show most of the evening.

Moroccan Dinner

The recipe I want to share today happens to be the Harissa Roasted Lamb I made for the dinner. However, the lamb made that evening was made on the rotisserie that’s a feature available in the oven they purchased. It was quite a sight! And took no longer than a regular oven to cook. 

Moroccan Dinner

Not everyone has rotisseries in their ovens so the lamb I’m posting today is cooked in a regular oven. It comes out just as juicy and tender as the rotisserie version; you just don’t get the show.

Moroccan Dinner-

Harissa Roasted Lamb

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 10-12 servings

Juicy and succulent leg of lamb roasted with Ras el Hanout spices and Harissa.
  1. The lamb can be marinated the night before and refrigerated.
  2. Unroll the boneless leg of lamb and lay flat.
  3. Smear half the Harissa paste on the inside of the lamb, sprinkle with half of the Ras El Hanout spices,
  4. add pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Flip the lamb over and repeat on the top side.
  6. Roll the lamb back up and tie neatly to form a uniform roll.
  7. Place in the fridge overnight or at least 4 hours.
  8. Before roasting, pull out the lamb from the fridge and leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
  10. Place the lamb on a rack in a baking sheet or roasting tin.
  11. Add a temperature probe and set for desired doneness.
  12. Place in the oven and roast.
  13. For a 4½ pound piece of lamb, it takes about 20 minutes a pound for rare and 30 minutes a pound for medium.
  14. It took me about 90 minutes to get a nice pink medium.
  15. In the rotisserie, the lamb turned beautiful golden brown by itself while rotating.
  16. In the oven, in the last 15 minutes, turn up the oven to 500F/220C to get a nice, crispy brown outside.
  17. Remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before slicing into thick slices.
  18. Serve with Harissa vinaigrette if desired, or this herb sauce
You can use a bone in leg of lamb and just cut slits in the meat and smear in some harissa and then cover the leg all over with more harissa and Ras el Hanout. Your cooking time will vary of course.
The chermoula sauce that was used to marinate the Herb Grilled Chicken goes wonderfully with this lamb as well.
I used the last of my homemade harissa on this lamb and bought some extra from Whole Foods, which is quite excellent. You can either make your own or buy a jar.

As you might remember, I’m not a fan of lamb at all….and I mean, at all. Lately though, I’ve been making lamb for my dinner parties because everyone else in my family enjoys it and this way, most of it gets eaten. Everyone raves about it so I guess it’s good, I, however, will never know, and that’s all right by me!

For you lamb lovers out there, try this, it really is good, juicy and tender with a lovely hit of spice.

Moroccan Dinner

Appetisers: roasted grapes in balsamic, whipped Feta dip and Merguez meatballs (not shown)

On the topic of dinner parties, I am a little curious of dinner party etiquettes that I know exist and that I’m quite sure I follow. I was just wondering what you guys think they are? First off, I must say that in this day and age, I don’t expect anything from anyone. It just seems that’s the society we’ve become. 

Moroccan Dinner Nazneen-1

I don’t expect a “hello” from the friends of my daughters that come through my door for whatever reason, I don’t expect a “thank you” when I drop them off home at times, I don’t expect a RSVP unless I hunt one down, I don’t expect a “thank you” email or text after a party I’ve hosted and I certainly never expect a hostess gift when I host a party. I may be wrong to not expect general courtesies, but I’m tired of being disappointed so I just don’t care now.

Moroccan Dinner

Butternut squash and sweet potato salad, vegetable tagine, couscous with preserved lemons and almonds

This doesn’t mean that I have taught my children to do the same, no. They are always to hold a conversation and to always be courteous and polite with all adults, especially their friends’ parents, and I’m glad to say they do. This is probably why they are the favourites of those parents. 

I always RSVP and send a thank you email, text or phone call. I never turn up at a party empty handed, but maybe this is just me. Your turn to chime in. What do you think is the expectation?

Sweet Potato and Ground Beef Phyllo Cigars

Sweet Potato Phyllo Cigars

My time off, so far, isn’t spawning any brilliance or creativity. In fact, I am further behind now than I was while I was regularly blogging! If that isn’t bad enough, we lost an hour yesterday with Daylight Savings. There is no way I’m catching up with anything.

Sweet Potato and Ground Beef Roll-2

How is everyone doing? Is anyone having a leisurely time of it? Or are we all as hectic as each other in our respective routines? I have been working on some projects however, and once they get going I will tell you all about them. 

Sweet Potato Phyllo and Ground Beef Roll

One productive thing I have done the last few weeks, is finally getting some business cards printed! It only took 3 years but here they are; what do you think? I had my own photographs printed with all my essential information on the back. I love them so much that I don’t want to give any away!


In between my hectic weekdays, we do get a calm weekend and if it’s the weekend my husband is off, it’s incredibly relaxing! We just seem to lounge the day away. On one of these relaxing weekends when I wasn’t running around with my head chopped off, and had a bit of time, I made these Moroccan spiced and Harissa laced Sweet Potato and Ground Beef Phyllo Cigars for a lunch time snack.

Sweet Potato and Ground Beef Roll

I had cooked and mashed the potatoes a day before and also had leftover spiced ground beef from dinner, so these were put together quite quickly. Of course, if you’re not adept at tackling phyllo dough, it may take you longer. I find phyllo dough totally frustrating and so, usually buy the #10 thicker sheets. This time however, I had the #4 thinner sheets and yes, they drove me crazy.

Sweet Potato Phyllo and Ground Beef Rolls

When you’re finally biting into the crunchy, flaky pastry you forget the torment it caused you and relish the tasty morsels; enticingly exotic from the ras el hanout and deliciously spicy from the Harissa. I alway think that something creamy inside the crispy pastry is a great combination. The sweet potatoes add the perfect creaminess with the ground beef and the flaky pastry.

I haven’t included the rolling tutorial but if you need help, please check out my earlier posts on phyllo pastry: Kale, Feta and Potato Phyllo Rolls or Kunafah Rolls

Sweet Potato Phyllo Cigar

Sweet Potato and Ground Beef Phyllo Cigars

Serves: 24

Calories: 2677

Fat: 167g

Crisp phyllo pastry rolls filled with creamy sweet potatoes and spicy ground beef.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, medium chunks, boiled till tender
  • 1 tablespoon or to taste, Harissa paste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • salt to taste
Spiced Ground Beef
  • 1 lb/455g lean ground beef/chicken
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoon ras el hanout spice mix
  • 1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Salt to taste
Phyllo Rolls
  • 12 sheets phyllo, cut in half
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons milk
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  1. Mash the sweet potatoes until no big lumps exist.
  2. You want the mash to be fairly lump free and smooth.
  3. Add the Harissa paste, cumin, coriander and salt.
  4. Check the seasonings and adjust as desired.
  5. Add more Harissa if you'd like it more spicy.
Spiced Ground Beef
  1. In a large fry pan, heat the oil on medium and add the chopped onions.
  2. Cook until lightly browned and add the garlic and ras el hanout.
  3. When the garlic and spices are fragrant, add the ground beef or chicken,
  4. Cook until the ground meat is no longer pink and fairly dry.
  5. Add salt to taste.
  6. Add the mint and cilantro.
Rolling The Phyllo
  1. Add the milk to the melted butter and keep aside.
  2. Unpack the phyllo sheets from the box and plastic wrap and lay on a tray and cover with a damp towel.
  3. Take a sheet of phyllo dough and lay on the counter or chopping board and carefully cut in half if not done already.
  4. Make sure the rest of the phyllo sheets are covered back up with the wet towel.
  5. Brush liberally with the melted butter and milk mixture.
  6. Lay a couple of teaspoons or so of mashed sweet potato and a teaspoon of ground meat in a log shape at one end of the phyllo sheet.
  7. Now, gently roll up the edges into an egg roll shape.
  8. Brushing with more butter and milk if needed to keep the roll moist and able to stick.
  9. Place on a baking sheet until you finish rolling the rest.
  10. Repeat with the rest of the sheets.
  11. Bake 12 rolls on a tray and space them apart.
  12. If you want to bake them immediately, preheat the oven to 375℉.
  13. Bake the rolls for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
I chose to do North African spices, but these can be any spice you want. Try an Indian version or Middle Eastern.

Sweet Potato and Ground Beef Cigars

I hope there are signs of spring like weather where you are and it’s bringing you great inspiration and promise of sunnier days (though I like the not so sunny days) We’ve had some great days lately and this weekend was wonderful, albeit a little windy. Trace and I drove with a couple of the kids up by Longs Peak and Estes Park with hopes of maybe getting in a hike. It was so windy we couldn’t stand up straight! The weather was beautiful though with just the right amount of sun to make Lake Estes glimmer beautifully. The wind however, was having a blast blowing snow off the mountain tops.

Lake Estes and The RMNP

Estes park

Today, we’re expecting snow again, and my weather app says its 3 snowflakes worth…which I think means, it’s a lot 🙂

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad-7

I don’t know about you guys but, I’m feeling heavy, full, over comforted. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can get to be too much. Our Arctic blast here in Colorado, left the State with below freezing, negative digit temperatures. Oh, it was cold, very cold. We were waking up to -11℉ (-24℃) and it was only warming up to like 3℉. It was pretty insane. I know there are colder places on this Earth but when you’re used to the sun shining and pretty nice temperatures even during winter, it’s a bit of a shock!


Of course, salad was not on the menu. Our bodies were rebelling against everything cold and so, I was making a lot of carb laden, warming foods. Most of the time it was spicy Indian curries so the spices would warm us up or stew and chilli like dinners.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad-2

Finally, our temperature is back into the double digits and we’re enjoying a balmy 34℉ (1℃) these days. After 10 days of over whelming, heavy foods, I made a refreshingly light dinner the other night. It still had some carbs to fuel us and spices to keep us warm, but it was a nice, light variation.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad-3

I don’t know if it was the change of pace or the fact that it really was good, but I really enjoyed every bite of my Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad. It was incredibly delicious, spicy and filling. The vegetables were roasted with the Moroccan spice mix; Ras el Hanout, Harissa and olive oil. The smell of the vegetables roasting gave me a great preview of what I was to enjoy. They smelled heavenly.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad-5

A generous handful of pomegranate arils, some salad leaves and a drizzle of Harissa vinaigrette completed the salad. To boost up the protein, I did serve ours with some baked chicken breast and a fried egg on top. Let me tell you, the fried egg; great addition. I enjoyed that better than the chicken. So this salad is versatile enough to be vegan, vegetarian or non vegetarian. I liked all the variations; and don’t forget the pomegranate, it adds amazing texture and fresh flavour with the spicy roasted squash and sweet potatoes.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad-6

I am sure this can be made with different winter squash and sweet potatoes. I wanted the deep, golden, colour of the butternut with the white, sweet potatoes. All I can say is that you must make this salad, especially with the Moroccan spices. I can’t emphasise how great it is, and if you are a winter squash lover, you will be in heaven.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad-1 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad

Serves: 6 servings

A light but filling Moroccan winter salad with colourful roasted squash, potatoes and pomegranate.
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced, medium chunks
  • 3 or 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced, medium chunks
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout spice mix
  • 2 tablespoons Harissa, homemade or store bought
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pomegranate, peeled and deseeded
  • 12 cups salad leaves, I used a spring mix
  • 6 eggs, organic, fried or poached, optional
  • Harissa Vinaigrette
  1. Preheat the oven to 400℉/200℃.
  2. Mix the extra virgin olive oil, harissa and Ras el Hanout together in a large bowl.
  3. Toss in the cubed butternut squash and sweet potatoes and mix around till well coated.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread out onto a baking sheet and place in the oven.
  6. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until soft and golden brown.
  7. On individual serving plates, add about 2 cups of salad leaves.
  8. Place the roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes on top.
  9. Add the fried or poached egg on top and scatter the pomegranate arils over the plate.
  10. Drizzle with the harissa vinaigrette.
You can use any winter squash or sweet potato that you like. I liked the deep colour of the butternut and the taste of the white sweet potatoes. The pomegranate adds a burst of colour and flavour.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad-4

Hope everyone is keeping warm, or cool for those of you who are in the Southern Hemisphere. Christmas is just around the corner, have you all done your Christmas shopping? I know the baking is coming along since I see such wonderful confections everyday. Have a great rest of the week and weekend! Happy baking!

Merguez Kebabs

merguez kebabs

Taking a break from autumn recipes, there’s plenty on the web if you need something desperately, I have decided to concentrate on the upcoming Islamic holiday of the pilgrimage to Mecca and its culmination, Eid ul Adha. This year, the pilgrimage starts, most probably tomorrow. The whole new moon and viewing the new moon is always a bit tricky.

The pilgrimage to Mecca happens in the 12th month of the lunar Islamic calendar. The pilgrimage lasts 10 days, starting from the first of the month, and these are some of the most important days for a Muslim in his life time. The Pilgrimage, also known as Hajj, is one of the 5 Pillars of Islam and is a duty upon all Muslims providing they can afford to do it.

The Hajj involves tracing some of the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (blessings be upon him) and the footsteps of other revered people in the Old Testament, for example, one ritual we observe is the frantic pacing of Hagar between two hills, looking for water for Ishmael, when they were stranded. On their seventh run, Ishmael struck the ground with his heel and a spring of water appeared. We do the very same thing, we walk back and forth between the two hills seven times. The walk is much easier for us than it was for her, we do it on paved marble and we take our time but even with the comfort, it’s not easy. It is a reminder for us, of her desperation, her resilience, her hardship and her motherhood. That well of water still exists today in Mecca and is known as the well of Zam Zam.

merguez kebabs

We travel to Medina, the city of the Prophet and observe other rituals during the 9 days. The 9th day is probably the most important, this day, everyone gathers on Mount Arafah and asks for their pilgrimage to be accepted and their sins forgiven. The Hajj is almost a baptism. When you perform Hajj, you have a clean slate, all your sins are forgiven and you are like a new born baby, pure and untainted. This is symbolised by the complete shaving of men’s head and just snipping the ends of a woman’s hair. So if you happen to see bald Muslim men come October 17th, they just got back from Hajj.

The Day of Arafah is a reminder of the day of judgement. You pray and ask for forgiveness and acceptance for your worship. Everyone is busy doing this intently and hoping their Hajj is accepted. It’s an “each to your own” mentality and that is a reminder of the last day, no one will be able to help you and only your good or bad deeds will decide your fate.

merguez kebabs

The 10th day is the day of celebration known as Eid ul Adha. On this day, everyone goes to congregational prayer in the morning, dressed in their nicest clothes. They meet and greet their friends and family. After prayer, its time for the sacrifice of the lamb, sheep, goat or cow.

Another ritual we observe is the sacrifice of Abraham of his only, beloved son, Ishmael (known as Ismail to Muslims). In the story, according to Islam, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his most beloved son, Ishmael and when Abraham obeyed his Lord without question, God rewarded his loyalty by replacing Ishmael with a lamb and Abraham ended up sacrificing that instead. It is Abraham’s loyalty to his one God, his duty and his sacrifice without question, that we remember, observe and celebrate.

Muslims remember this sacrifice and we too give a sacrificial lamb, goat or cow at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca. Even if we don’t go to Mecca, we are still expected to give a sacrifice. The meat from the sacrifice is divided into thirds; 1/3 goes to the needy, 1/3 goes to family and friends and 1/3 is for yourself. Since my husband is not very good with the whole sacrificing a lamb sort of thing, we donate ours overseas to a needy country.

Needless to say, come the day of Eid, and days after, there’s a lot of meat! There is the meat that you have from your own sacrifice and then there’s the meat family and friends give you! There’s a lot of meat dishes that appear at the dinner table the next few months!

As a child visiting India or Pakistan for the holidays during this time was not a pleasant time for me. I did not like to see the sheep at our home one day and gone the next, and then appear on the dinner table later that week!


My family was very frugal with the meat too, and not because of saving money, but because they, honestly, found every piece of the animal truly tasty! The day of Eid, the breakfast was a lavish lay out of brains, livers, kidneys and other offal, all in rich masala and served with buttery naan or parathas. The breakfast table was filled with my uncles, grandfather, my older brother and my father all enjoying eyeballs and Rocky Mountain oysters (if you get my drift) talking excitedly about some mundane topic.

Me? I would walk up to that table, look at what was on it and quietly, walk right out. It was a hard few days for me because I didn’t eat much. I don’t know how I would be now if I went back to celebrate Eid there. I think I’d have an ever harder time!

Living here it’s much easier, I don’t have the visuals of animals, blood and guts. If I am given meat, it is already cut up and fairly clean. Living in Houston with family, we did enjoy some meat feasts though. 

So today’s recipe, appropriately is a meat one; a Merguez Kebab one. I tried Merguez sausage once when I found them in Houston. I have looked since and have not come across any. So a few Google searches led me to the basic spices in the sausage and since Merguez sauasge is a North African spiced sausage, I wasn’t surprised to see the spices in the mix. Trial and error got me to the sausage I remembered. If you want to use it as a sausage, I would omit the onion and fry up links or patties, it is SO good. You can even drop Merguez meatballs into a tagine.

I turned the sausage into a heartier kebab by adding some onions and mint. I really wanted to grill them but time was of the essence that day so they went in the oven. Served with couscous and a vegetable tagine, they were perfect.

merguez kebabs

Merguez Kebab

Serves: 24

Calories: 2585

Fat: 166g

The popular North African sausage, with flavourful Harissa and spices made into a kebab.
  • 2 lbs/1kg lean ground beef (10 percent)
  • 1 lb/500g ground beef (20 percent)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • handful of mint, finely chopped
  1. Mix everything except onion and mint together and marinate overnight in the fridge.
  2. If you want to use it as a sausage, fry up in some oil as links or patties.
  3. If you want to make kebabs, add the onions and mint, form into kebab shape or patties and grill.
  4. Brush with a neutral flavoured oil before grilling or placing in the oven.
  5. You can also bake at 400℉/200℃ for about 30 minutes or until firm and browned.
  6. You can also stick them under the broiler for 5 minutes to get a deeper brown colour.
The Merguez is a spicy sausage and you can control that by increasing or decreasing the chilli powder and the Harissa. The recipe above is not too spicy, just enough kick and very flavourful. The flavour that the Harissa adds is incredible; the spicy roasted pepper and hot peppers add a nice heat and colour.

merguez kebabs

The ten days of the pilgrimage are very important whether you are travelling to Mecca or observing it at home. I usually fast the 9 days before Eid, so I will be doing it again this year, that means getting up before dawn and eating a light breakfast and then eating again after the sun sets. 

In the spirit of this Islamic holiday, I’d like to wish you all much peace and happiness. I hope you are having a great weekend. Today, I am at Laith’s soccer tournament which is a two day affair and since it snowed yesterday, I am quite sure I am very cold. But I will take the cold over the heat any day! Wish us luck, I hope we win all our games.