Moroccan Lamb and Root Vegetable Stew

Moroccan Lamb and Root Vegetable Stew

Moroccan spiced lamb stew with rutabagas, parsnips, and carrots. Served with a homemade harissa.

Since the cold days are persisting in Houston, hot soups are welcomed fortifications until the next salvo of warm weather drops on the city. I was in the mood for a soup that was hearty and substantial, and one that had the look of it, too. I came up with a Moroccan spiced lamb stew that was ballasted with hunks of braised lamb and earthy root vegetables. The stew needed another component, a brightness to compliment the richness and earthiness, and since I was already running with the Moroccan flavors, harissa seemed like the most appropriate condiment. Pistachios, dried apricots, golden raisins, and Moroccan-styled Beldi olives also contributed to the complexity of flavor and texture.

Ingredients

Soup:

2 tbsp grape seed oil, perhaps additional

3 lb boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes

2 large rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 large parsnips; peeled, halved and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 large carrots; peeled, halved, and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

4-5 cups chicken stock

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Spice rub for lamb:

2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp kosher salt + additional for seasoning

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Tied in a cheesecloth bag:

8 sprigs of fresh thyme

8 sprigs of fresh oregano

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

Harissa:

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 dried pequin pepper

1 tsp fresh mint

1 tbsp golden raisins

1 roasted, peeled, and seeded red bell pepper, from a jar or roasted at home

1/4 tsp lemon juice

Kosher salt, to taste

Additional Garnishes:

Chopped pistachios, dried apricots, and golden raisins

Beldi olives

Sour cream

Methods

Combine the spice rub ingredients and then add to the well-trimmed and cubed lamb shoulder. Let the lamb rest coated in the spice rub for an hour in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300 °F. On the stove, heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat in a large dutch oven. Brown the lamb, and you can do this in batches to avoid crowding and to get a nice crust on the meat. Set the meat aside. Adjust the oil in the dutch oven, either removing some or adding some to get back to around 2 tbsp. This will all depend on how the lamb was trimmed. Sauté the onion for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the chopped carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas. Continue cooking for 4 more minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the garlic. Once the garlic becomes fragrant (not burnt), add the juice and zest of the lemon and reduce. Add the tomatoes in their juice, breaking them up with a spoon in the pot. Add the herb bag and return the meat. Add the stock. Bring to a boil and then cover. Cook covered in the preheated oven for about 3 hours, until the meat and vegetables become tender. When the meat and vegetables are soft, remove the pot from the oven and discard the herb bag. Carefully tilt the dutch oven; then skim off and discard the accumulated oil. There will be a lot. After discarding the oil, remove about two cups of broth and vegetables, being careful not to gather up any pieces of meat, and blend those two cups of the soup. Add the blended soup back to the pot and stir to thicken the stew. Add the chickpeas. Adjust the seasoning with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Optionally, you can return the pot to the oven and cook uncovered for an additional 30 minutes.

For the harissa, grind all of the dry ingredients together with a mortar and pestle. Add the mint to the mortar and grind into the spices to make a paste. Add the raisins and continue making a paste. Chop the bell pepper and then add it to the mortar, continuing to make the paste. When the pepper has been fully incorporated, season with the kosher salt and lemon juice. You may adjust the seasoning with additional smoked paprika at this point.

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