Here I am again, with a braised dish. This one is for those times when you need a warming , comforting, flavorful dish that’s easy to make. And those times are now ( and the next three or four months from now!) This is a stew with a Moroccan theme: preserved lemons, lamb, warm spices, mint, harissa, couscous.
You can adapt the dish to the season, make it ahead of time, and reheat any leftovers with success. You don’t need a traditional “tagine” cooking vessel; a good, heavy Dutch oven will work fine. Use lean lamb shoulder for the braise, to ensure tender and juicy meat. Add fresh lemons if you don’t have preserved lemons, but, I urge you to try preserved lemons. They have a distinct salty tang that fresh lemons just can’t provide (and they’re really easy to make at home). Vegetables can vary so think about what’s fresh and seasonal in the markets. I used carrots and butternut squash, and added lots of lively green and bright flavor with cilantro and mint. Serve the tagine with rice, couscous, or toasted pita bread, to soak up the delicious sauce. And, another bonus of preparation: the meat is not browned before the stew is assembled. So, no messy stove top to clean, and lots of time saved! This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks “The Complete Meat Cookbook” by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly.
- 3 pounds boneless lean lamb shoulder , cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 1/2 cups finely diced onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt , or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of saffron (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems (save the leaves for garnish)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3 carrots , peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
- 2 preserved lemons , rinsed and cut into eighths, OR 1 fresh lemon, cut into eighths and seeded
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice , or more to taste
- 20 kalamata or mild green olives , well rinsed and pitted
- 2 cups 1-inch chunks peeled butternut squash
- Harissa or other hot sauce , for serving
- A handful each of fresh cilantro and fresh mint , coarsely chopped, for garnish
Combine the lamb, onions, garlic, spices, saffron, mint, and cilantro stems in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the water and bring to a boil, adding more water if necessary to cover the lamb. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the lamb is tender.
Add the carrots and fresh lemon, if using, to the pot making sure they are covered with liquid (add more water if needed), and cook for 10 minutes more.
Add the preserved lemons, if using them, the lemon juice, olives, and butternut squash and cook, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the carrots and squash are tender.
Remove the solids from the pot with a slotted spoon. Arrange the meat and vegetables in a shallow serving dish or a deep platter. Degrease the sauce and boil to reduce it and concentrate the flavors. It should not get too thick, however-it should have a souplike consistency. Taste for salt, pepper, and lemon juice and adjust if necessary. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Garnish with the fresh herbs and let your guests add harissa or hot sauce as they like.