Francois de Melogue
3 min readMay 13, 2020

As we enter yet another week of lockdown I am trying to add a bit more diversity to our dinner table. I began leafing through old kitchen notebooks to get inspiration from past dishes. I came across an uptown version of lamb mechoui that used to be a fixture on my menus almost 20 years ago. A dish I had long forgotten about.

For those unfamiliar with mechoui, it is a festive lamb dish from North Africa. It’s usually made from a whole lamb, though small camels, gazelles, or even wild sheep will work in a pinch. Mechoui is intended to serve large gatherings, like a wedding or a joyous celebration. My version starts with a 3-pound boneless lamb shoulder marinated in spiced butter, then slow-cooked over a charcoal fire. But you can even make this in a conventional oven to get an unconventional flavor unto your table.

Lamb Mechoui served over a bed of Israeli Couscous with dried fruits and vegetables


In Morocco, whole lambs or goats are cooked in earthen clay ovens or even large holes dug deep into the ground. A large wood fire is constructed and allowed to burn until nothing but embers are left. The lamb is often massaged with a spiced butter made from coriander, garlic, cumin, paprika, and sometimes cinnamon. Sometimes it is seasoned with a tomato and garlic marinade. The animal is lowered into the pit bound by a spit and entombed under a roof of clay. The embers smoke and crackle, charring the exterior and rendering the flesh tender and juicy in 5 to 6 hours. Mechoui is commonly served with nothing more than bowls of cumin, pepper, and salt to flavor the meat and perhaps a bowl of saffron rice.


Since I do not have enough people to feed a proper mechoui to I generally cook a leg or preferably a shoulder of lamb. The shoulder lends itself to the longer cooking time and yields incredibly tender and juicy meat. I marinate the lamb for at least two hours but preferably overnight. I like to cook the mechoui in a hot smoker or charcoal grill but an oven at 375°F will work as well. Serve with saffron rice or golden couscous.


Lamb Mechoui

Prep Time 2 hours 30 minutes

Cook Time 6 hours

Servings 8

Francois de Melogue

My earliest attempt at cookery began with the filleting of my sister's goldfish at age 2 and cooking my pet rabbits by age 7. Life has been downhill ever since.