This spicy and aromatic lamb stew is inspired by a traditional Moroccan meat and vegetable tagine called mrouzia, a sweet and rich festive stew prepared in the days following Eid al-Adha, or the holiday sacrifice, and sweetened with raisins, honey and spices.
In this stew recipe, the sweetness is reduced and tomatoes and carrots are added for a balance of acidity and brightness. The raisins are replaced by dried apricots, earthy, less sweet and providing a pleasant acidity. The spice list is an extreme abbreviation of ras el hanout, which is a basic North African blend featuring a long list of spices — over 20! This recipe includes a short list that shouldn’t tax your spice cabinet and will add fragrance and flavor without sending you shopping.
Prepare and serve this stew the same day, or better yet, let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to enhance the flavor.
Lynda Balslev is a Marin cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer.
Moroccan lamb stew
For 4 to 6 people
2½ pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1- to 1½-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth, or more as needed
10 to 12 dried apricots, cut in half if large
1 cinnamon stick (2 inches)
1 tablespoon harissa paste
2 to 3 carrots, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon honey or light brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
Chopped red peppers for garnish, optional
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Season the lamb evenly with salt and black pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or ovenproof saucepan with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the lamb in batches, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides for five to seven minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining lamb.
Remove the fat from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and the onion to the same pan. Sauté over medium heat until the onion softens, about two minutes, stirring up any brown bits. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika, and allspice, stir, and toast until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, 2 cups chicken broth, apricots, cinnamon stick, harissa paste, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Return the lamb to the pot with the collected juices. (The lamb should be submerged in the liquid. Add more chicken stock to cover, if necessary.) Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until lamb is tender, about two hours, stirring once or twice.
While the lamb is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan. Add carrots and cook until crisp-tender, six to eight minutes.
When the lamb is ready, transfer the pan to the stove and stir in the carrots. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat until the carrots are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the honey and coriander and taste for seasoning. If more heat is desired, add additional harissa.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with chilies and additional cilantro.