This lamb stew is inspired by a traditional Moroccan meat and vegetable tagine. It includes ras el hanout, which is an important spice blend in North African cuisine. It translates to “top of the shop” and includes a laundry list of spices, a combination which varies from kitchen to kitchen and cook to cook. You can purchase ras el hanout in specialty stores or well-stocked supermarkets. The meat can be rubbed with the spices and cooked straight away, but if you have the time, rub the meat the night before preparing and refrigerate. The longer the meat sits with the spices, the deeper the flavor. Pair with a glass of Enotria Punto dei Venti Rose.
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 (14-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
12 dried unsulphured apricots, halved
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Harissa sauce, optional
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, the cumin, coriander, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl and mix to form a paste. Place the lamb in a large bowl and rub the paste all over the meat. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven or oven-proof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add the lamb in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer the lamb to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining lamb.
Pour off the fat from the pan and add 1 tablespoon oil and the onion to the pot. Sauté the onion over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes, stirring up any brown bits. Add the garlic, ginger, and red chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 2 cups chicken stock, the apricots, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Return the lamb and any collected juices to the pot and submerge the meat in the stock. (Add more stock to cover, if necessary.) Bring to a boil, and then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the lamb is tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring once or twice.
Transfer the pot to the stovetop and stir in the carrots and chickpeas. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the carrots are tender and the sauce reduces and thickens to a stew consistency, about 20 minutes, skimming the fat as much as possible. Stir in the brown sugar and taste for seasoning. If more heat is desired, stir in a few teaspoons of harissa sauce, or serve on the side. Serve warm, ladled over couscous and garnished with cilantro.
Lee Kalpakis is a recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in her family’s restaurant in the Hudson Valley and has since worked as a cook, host, producer, and writer in the food media world. She loves natural wine, summer produce, and rock and roll music.