At the end of dinner party last week we were all lamenting the end of summer when David chimed in, “Do you you know what I’m looking forward to about the fall?” (I’m thinking, autumn leaves? The end to this stifling humidity?) “Braised meats and pumpkin fondue.”
A day or two later the weather broke, and I was ready to think about stew (although not about fondue, pumpkin or otherwise). This Morrocan-inspired dish makes for a delicious transition to richer, more wintry braises like boeuf bourguignon. The sauce it produces is light, lean and almost clear as it’s not fortified with bacon, butter, flour or wine. It’s full of flavor, though, from the elegantly balanced blend of spices that beautifully complements the natural sweetness of the lamb and onions.
It’s also very easy to make. You have to peel a bunch of onions, but there’s almost no chopping, no browning of meat or vegetables, and no reducing and finishing the sauce at the end. Everything goes into the pot at once and emerges three hours later ready to eat. Like most braised meat dishes, the long cooking time makes it a difficult choice for cooking and eating on the same weekday, but the short active time makes it a good dish to cook one evening and eat the next.
One final note: don’t omit the fresh mint garnish. It’s important to the flavor as well as the appearance of the dish.
(Adapted from “Tangia Mrakchiya (Bachelor’s Stew Marrakech)” in Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse, serves 6)
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
3 pounds (1.4 kg) lamb leg or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into stew-sized chunks
1 cup (240 ml) beef broth
3 pounds (1.4 kg) small yellow onions
Fresh mint leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180 C).
2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the oil, garlic, spices and salt. Toss the lamb chunks (a few at a time) in this loose paste to coat thoroughly, place in another bowl and set aside. Pour the broth into the bowl that held the spice paste and swirl to wash down the sides.
3. Peel the onions (some good music helps with the tedium here). If they’re much larger than golf balls, halve them. Put them all in a Dutch oven or large enameled baking dish.
4. Place the meat on top of the onions. Pour the broth from the spice bowl into the bowl that held the meat and swirl to wash down the sides. Pour this broth over the meat and onions.
5. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and then with a lid to form a tight seal. Bake 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the meat is fork tender. Skim off the fat.
6. Spoon some of the meat and onions into soup plates and ladle the delicious sauce over the top. Garnish with a generous amount of chopped fresh mint leaves.
Traditionally this type of dish is served with bread, but I love it best with simple boiled or roasted potatoes and carrots.