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Lamb Tagine via Relishing It

I woke up to the welcoming rumble of thunder this morning.  Now that may not seem too interesting, but with a quick glance out the window, I saw heavy snowflakes falling everywhere and blanketing the ground.  Thunder and snow– brilliant!  I know I may be the last person in Minnesota (aside from my husband) who isn’t quite ready to let Winter go yet.  Yes, I know it has been a long season this year, but the prospect of one last snowstorm made for a lovely start to my day.  And this has to be the last one of the year right?  Right?

Moroccan Lamb Tagine via Relishing It

This lovely dish will keep you warm while you wait for the snow to melt.  It’s a delicious Moroccan lamb tagine, which is technically a “Spring” dish.  So, even if you’re not able to frolick in the fresh Minnesota snow, you can enjoy this delightful meal.  What is a tagine?  It’s a North African “stew” that is simmered in a special pot.  The pot itself is called a tagine.  It’s an interesting vessel with a conical lid which allows for less steam loss.  Less steam loss means you don’t have to add as much liquid in the first place, which concentrates the flavors.   The stew itself consists of a meat, paired with fruits and nuts.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine via Relishing It

As it turns out, you don’t actually have to use a tagine.  I don’t have one, so I turned to my trusty Dutch oven with it’s tight fitting lid.  It worked wonderfully.  We’ve made this tagine several times, and it’s become a favorite in our house. Lamb pairs beautifully with dried fruits.   It’s full of dried plums, cilantro, turmeric, and pearl onions.  The dried plums disintegrate to form a splendid, slightly sweet sauce that coats the lamb perfectly.  The pearl onions add a nice contrast.  The dish can be served with whole wheat couscous or even quinoa and topped with chopped almonds for a bit of crunch.  Add more cilantro or fresh mint  for a burst of freshness.  Traditionally preserved lemons or Harissa (recipe coming soon!) can be served along side, so feel free to experiment.  One pound of lamb feeds our family of four perfectly, since this is a rich dish– you don’t need a pile on your plate.  We serve it with a nice salad or a vegetable on the side.   However, if you have more people, or are wanting leftovers (highly encouraged), feel free to double the recipe.  Enjoy!

Moroccan Lamb Tagine via Relishing It

The Recipe:  Lamb Tagine

(Serves 3-4 people)

olive oil

1 medium white onion, chopped

1 pound lamb stew meat, cubed

10 saffron threads (optional) broken with a mortar and pestle or with your fingertips   *See note

2 tablespoons honey

1 3/4 – 2 cups beef broth, or more

1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric

1-inch piece of whole cinnamon or 1/4 teaspoon ground

pinch of nutmeg or mace

3/4 cup dried plums (prunes)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

15 frozen (or fresh) pearl onions

fresh mint or more chopped cilantro,  and chopped toasted almonds to garnish

Note: Saffron is a wonderful spice that is used often in Moroccan dishes.  However, it is quite expensive.  This tagine is delicious with or without it–so, you decide.

If you are fortunate enough to have a real tagine, of course use that for this dish.  If you don’t have one, a Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid is a wonderful alternative.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven.  Always use a paper towel to pat your meat dry  before browning it– you will get a wonderful color this way.  Season the lamb with a sprinkle of sea salt and cracked black pepper.  Brown your meat in two batches, so the pan does not get overcrowded.   Make sure to let the meat develop a nice dark color.   Add more olive oil, as needed.

Remove the meat from the pan.  Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, (and even a splash of beef broth, if there is a lot of color on the bottom) and brown the chopped onion.  Scrape up all of the brown bits, as they have a ton of flavor.  After a few minutes, add the lamb, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, cilantro, prunes, and honey.  Saute for 30 seconds, then add the beef broth.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and place in the oven for about 50 minutes.  Check during the baking time to see if you need to add more broth.  The consistency is your choice, so add as much or as little as you want.  It will thicken near the end.  When it seems done, add the pearl onions and return to oven so they heat through, about 5 minutes.  Garnish with chopped cilantro or mint and chopped almonds.  It’s delicious served with whole wheat couscous or even quinoa.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine’s Special Soups & Stews Issue 2010

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Laurie

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As I’ve said in prior posts, my family eats a lot of soup through the chilly Fall and Winter months.  Some lighter soups I prepare as a first course to a meal, while other more substantial versions become the meal itself.  This is one of those that is hearty enough to stand alone.  It has the added benefit of not only being delicious, but it’s somewhat unique.  It has an interesting flavor that breaks up the monotony of all those broth-based soups.  My neighbor introduced me to this beautiful soup two years ago.   It is has become one of our favorites.

Take a look at all of those vegetables!  Just when you think you cannot possibly add more, it’s time to put an entire bag of spinach into the pot.  The veggies are just one of the many reasons to love this soup.  The broth is another.  It’s hefty and creamy, with just the right amount of peanut, ginger, and curry to give it that unique flavor.  You may think you’re cheating by eating such an indulgent dish, but fear not– the small amount of peanut butter goes a long way here.  Another reason to love this soup is that it comes together in a snap and cooks up in little time.  The sweet potatoes become tender quickly, so it doesn’t need to simmer on the stove for long.   Finally, the addition of chicken is a nice contrast to all of the vegetables, and makes the soup even more substantial.  If you prefer, you can easily leave it out for a vegetarian version– just be sure to add a few more vegetables.

The Recipe:  African Peanut Soup

Makes 4 -6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1 medium red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup chopped carrot

1/2 cup chopped celery

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoon curry powder

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1 bay leaf

4 cups organic chicken stock

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed into bite size pieces

1 – 1 1/2 pounds organic/free-range  chicken breast, cooked and cubed

1/2 cup  or more of peanut butter (try to use a natural kind containing just ground peanuts)

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 – 5 oz bag of baby spinach leaves, torn

kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper chopped

peanuts and lime wedges,  for garnish

To make the soup:  Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Saute on medium heat the onion, peppers, carrots, and celery until soft — about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder.  Saute for about  a minute.  Add the tomatoes and bay leaf.  Cook for three more minutes, so the tomatoes can reduce a bit.

Add the broth, sweet potatoes, and chicken.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are soft. 10 – 15 minutes.  Stir in the peanut butter and cook for another 2 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro and spinach.  Cook until spinach wilts.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with a wedge of lime and a sprinkle of peanuts.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from an article in Parade Magazine, I’m told

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It  — have a wonderful weekend!

Laurie

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