It’s Wednesday. So,how early in the week do you start thinking about what you’re going to cook over the weekend?
Are you one of those expert planning types who makes a meal plan, shops for the whole week in advance, and knows exactly what’s going on in your kitchen?
Or are you (like me) one of those wander around the grocery store, see what looks good, see what’s on sale, see what hits you kind of cooks?
This incredibly delicious lamb stew came about because lamb was on sale for Easter. It’s a dish that I’ve made a few times and every time, I wonder why I don’t cook it more often.
Saffron, Dates, Orange, Ginger, and Carrots seem like a strange combination to put with meat but they cook up into an incredibly savory sauce.
Here’s what you need:
Lamb meat*, Carrots, Onions, Garlic, Ginger, Orange, Parsley, Beef Broth or Bouillon, Flour, Olive Oil, Chopped Dates, Diced Tomatoes, Saffron, Red Pepper Flakes (not pictured), Cumin (not pictured), Salt Pepper.
Although there are lots of ingredients and a bit of chopping, this is really quite a simple dish to prepare. It cooks in one pot in the oven – think the beef stew. And speaking of beef, if you don’t eat lamb, or can’t find good lamb at your store, beef would probably make a fine substitution.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Speaking of chopping…..finely chop 2 large yellow onions.
Peel and chop 4-5 big carrots. I like carrots so I always add a few more than called for in the original recipe. You want the carrots diced into about 1/2 inch pieces.
Finely chop 3 cloves of garlic.
Peel the brown outer skin off a 1 inch hunk of fresh ginger, cut it into thin strips and then finely chop until you have about 1 Tablespoon.
*Let’s talk Lamb. Most recipes like this call for “stew meat” that you find already cut up at the store. I don’t like so-called “stew meat” because what you’re usually getting are all the left over bits with tons of fat and gristle. If I’m going to go to the trouble to make a nice dish, I’d rather start out with good meat so I buy either a piece of a leg of lamb (bone in or out…doesn’t matter) or a small lamb roast.
You’ll want 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of lamb meat. Trim away some of the very firm fat…
and then cut the meat into cubes. I keep my cubes fairly large…maybe 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Be sure to cut all of the meat away from the bone and use every last little morsel.
In a large oven-proof pot or dutch oven, saute the onions in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.
Cook the onions for 5 minutes until they start to become tender then add the chopped carrots. Cook the carrots 5 minutes more so that they start to soften but not brown. You may need to turn the heat on the pan down to medium.
Use a paper towel to pat the cubes of lamb meat dry. This will help them to brown more evenly and not steam in the pan.
Fill a zipper bag with 1/2 cup of flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Add the lamb meat (you might need to do this in 2 batches), and shake, shake, shake to get a light coating of flour on each cube of meat.
Remove the onions and carrots from the pot and set aside. Add a bit more olive oil and about half of the lamb. Do not crowd the pot or the meat will not brown.
Brown the lamb on both sides over medium to medium high heat. Remove the browned meat and work in small batches until all the lamb has been browned. I usually have to add more olive oil with each addition of meat. I like to add the oil just a bit at a time – you’ll probably use about 3-4 Tablespoons total – rather than all at once.
Once the meat has all been browned, add the carrots and onions and other meat pieces back to the pot.
In go all the other ingredients — add 2 1/2 cups of beef broth (or bouillon), the chopped garlic, the chopped ginger, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Saffron is the spice that makes this dish taste Moroccan. It is known as the world’s most expensive spice because the little threads shown here are actually the tiny little stigmas from the saffron crocus. Yes, crocus…similar to the little purple flowers that pop up early each spring.
I have been able to find saffron in small quantities at the store so it doesn’t cost a fortune. My store has a section near the Mexican food items with spices that cost much less than the fancy jars sold on the baking aisle.
If you don’t have saffron, you can skip it, but you might want to add just a tiny bit of tumeric so that you get a yellow color similar to the saffron.
If you have saffron (whoohoo!) add 1/4 teaspoon to the pot. Also add 1 can of diced tomatoes that have been drained and 1 cup of chopped dried dates.
I think the dates are the secret ingredient to this amazing sauce.
Use a microplane or grater with small holes to remove the zest from one orange. Once you have the zest in the pot, cut the orange in half and squeeze the orange juice right in there too. Just watch out for seeds.
Now you have a pot filled with lamb, onions, carrots, tomatoes, dates, garlic, ginger, orange zest and juice, beef broth, and cool spices like saffron, cumin, and red peppers. So much good stuff in one pot!
Bring the broth to a boil, put the lid on, and put the pot in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
The lamb will be tender and the sauce thick and lovely. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
I like to serve this stew with a side of couscous or rice pilaf to catch all the amazing juices. Garnish the stew with a little chopped parsley and add some lightly sauteed green beans for some crunch.
This is truly one of my favorite dishes. It’s certainly upscale enough for guests but also has that great comfort food feeling that only comes from slow cooking.
Moroccan Lamb Stew. So tender and delicious….it’s not too early to start thinking about cooking it this weekend!
Here’s the recipe: Adapted from Williams Sonoma