This spicy, aromatic lamb stew is inspired by a traditional Moroccan meat-and-vegetable tagine called mrouzia, a sweet and rich celebratory stew that is prepared in the days following Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, and sweetened with raisins, honey and spice.
In this stew recipe, the sweetness is scaled back, and tomato and carrots are added for a balance of acidity and brightness. The raisins are replaced by dried apricots, which are earthy, less sweet and provide a pleasant tartness.
The spice list is an extreme abbreviation of ras el hanout, which is a North African staple blend comprising a lengthy list of spices -- upward of 20! This recipe features a short list that shouldn't tax your spice cabinet and will drive in fragrance and flavor without sending you on a shopping expedition.
Prepare and serve this stew in the same day, or, better yet, let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to improve its flavor.
Moroccan lamb stew
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: Two hours, 45 minutes
Yield: Serves four to six
2½ pounds boneless lamb leg, cut into 1 to 1½-inch chunks
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh peeled ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon allspice
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock, or more as needed
10-12 dried apricots, halved if large
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon harissa paste
2-3 carrots, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon honey or light brown sugar
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
Chopped red chiles for garnish, optional
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Evenly season the lamb with salt and black pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add the lamb in batches, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides, five to seven minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining lamb.
Pour off the fat from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon oil and the onion to the same pot. Saute over medium heat until the onion softens, about two minutes, stirring up the brown bits. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika and allspice, and stir and toast until fragrant, about one minute. Add the tomatoes, 2 cups chicken stock, apricots, cinnamon stick, harissa paste, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Return the lamb to the pot with any collected juices. (The lamb should be submerged in the liquid. Add more chicken stock to cover, if necessary.) Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the lamb is tender, about two hours, stirring once or twice.
While the lamb is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet. Add the carrots and cook until crisp-tender, six to eight minutes.
When the lamb is ready, transfer the pot to the stovetop and stir in the carrots. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat until the carrots are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the honey and cilantro, and taste for seasoning. If more heat is desired, add additional harissa.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with chiles and additional cilantro.
Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author and recipe developer based in northern California.