Braised lamb, nutty parsnips, sweet prunes, in a Moroccan spiced stew with chickpeas over cous cous – what could be better on a cold winter’s night?
Like Provencal Beef Stew, the lamb becomes meltingly tender after a slow braise in the oven, and the freshly toasted and ground spices amped with paprika and cayenne really make the dish special.
When toasting and grinding spices, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat and shake the pan around or stir them frequently to ensure they don’t burn. Once they’re fragrant, after about 1-2 minutes typically, they’re toasted. Then transfer them to a spice grinder or a coffee bean grinder reserved for spices (unless you want your morning java tasting like spices).
I love prunes – they’re sticky, luscious and sweet, and I feel no need to cover them up with the often used alias ‘dried plums.’ If you’re not as much a prune fan as I am, substitute jumbo flame raisins or chopped dates. And if you like, garnish the dish with toasted slivered almonds or cilantro instead of parsley.
Moroccan lamb stew with parsnips, chickpeas and prunes
- 2 – 3 lbs boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 inch cubes, large pieces of fat removed
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 1/2 large onion, quartered, peeled
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 4 small-medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs Paprika
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- 2 tsp whole coriander seeds, toasted and ground
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 18 pitted prunes
- 1/4 cup tomato puree
- 1 lb parsnips, peeled, thicker ones cored, and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 Tbs parsley, chopped (optional for garnish)
1. Preheat oven to 350. Season lamb with salt and pepper. In dutch oven, combine lamb, quartered onion, carrots, cinnamon, bay leaf, and enough water to cover. Cover and braise in oven until meat is fork tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Strain mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl to catch the broth. Discard vegetables and spices. Skim some of the fat with a spoon from the broth.
2. In same dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and dash of salt, and saute 8 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Add garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook 1-2 more minutes until fragrant. Do not burn garlic.
3. Stir in chickpeas, prunes, tomato puree, and pinch of salt. Add lamb and 4 cups reserved broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add parsnips, cover and cook 15 minutes or until parsnips are tender and stew has thickened. Season to taste with salt/pepper. Garnish with parsley.
Serve over cous cous or with toasted flatbread.
Serves 4 -6 main course portions.
Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking magazine.