Moroccan Marathon

Picking recipes is something of a hobby of mine, but sometimes I spend too much time thinking of all the things I could make and have trouble actually picking what’s for dinner so I asked my husband to pick a recipe for us to try. He definitely spend a lot less time deciding on a recipe than I do, but that is in large part because he does not actually read the recipe at all. This is how we ended up spending 3 days working on a single dish, Moroccan Stew we found through Gojee. For someone cooking without an infant in the house, or with a fully stocked kitchen, this probably won’t take as long. Fortunately the results were delicious and tasted unlike anything we’d made before. The chickpeas added some nice texture and the figs melted into the sauce, giving it an unexpectedly nice fruitiness.

One of the first steps of the recipe is to make the spice mixture used to marinate the meat. The spice mixture is called Ras el Hanout. Our local grocery store doesn’t stock the spice mixture, but we discovered weeks later that you can purchase it inexpensively at Cost Plus. This recipe seems like one that could be adapted pretty easily to go in the crockpot (follow the recipe through step 3, then dump everything in the slow cooker and let it work its magic).

Ras El Hanout

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Combine all the spices together. Store in a cool, dark place.

The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of turmeric as well, but even after making a grocery run, we didn’t have any and made do without. The recipe can be halved. Even after halving the recipe, you won’t use all of the mixture and will have some to store for future recipes.

Hearty Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Figs.

Moroccan Stew - packed up for lunch with cilantro and quinoa.

Moroccan Lamb Stew

Ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 – 3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut in 2 inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 – 14 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock
12 dried Calimyrna or Turkish figs, halved
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout
1 – 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Harissa or red chili paste
Fresh cilantro sprigs

Directions:

1. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Mix to form a paste. Place lamb in a large bowl. Rub paste all over lamb. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate covered up to 24 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 325 F. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or oven proof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add lamb in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer lamb to a plate or bowl.

3. Add onion and carrot to the same pot. Saute, stirring up the brown bits, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, figs, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

4. Return lamb and any collected juices to the pot, submerging it in the stock. Add additional chicken stock to cover, if necessary.

5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Transfer to oven and bake until lamb is falling apart tender, (about 2 hours).

6. Transfer pot to stove. Remove lamb and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil uncovered until sauce is reduced by about half and thickened, skimming fat.  Stir in chickpeas. Taste to check for seasoning. If necessary add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the stock. Return lamb and vegetables to pot.

Recipe may be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, skim any collected fat from surface. Rewarm over medium-low heat or in a 325 F. oven. Serve with prepared quinoa or couscous. Pass bowls of harissa and fresh cilantro around the table as condiments.

We made a quick pot of quinoa in our rice cooker as we finished up the recipe and it was delicious! Be prepared for your entire house to smell of the rich, spiced aroma of the dish.

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