Tag Archives: North African

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Figs and Chickpeas

It’s the time of year when I have an urge to travel. Call it cabin fever, restlessness, or simply the craving to be somewhere different, where it’s warm, spicy and balmy. The sights, smells and sounds of new cultures are revitalizing. Time slows down, and the smallest details are observed and savored  amidst a kaleidescope of impressions. It just so happens that this is also the time of year when my urge to travel collides with real life. It’s the middle of the school year, I have work deadlines, and the contents of my piggy bank were spent at Christmas. So I improvise, and my travels occur in the kitchen, where I replace my passport with the jars in my spice drawer and concoct recipes inspired by the exotic flavors, heat and aromas of far flung destinations.

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Figs

The secret ingredient in this North African inspired stew is ras el hanout. Ras el hanout is a  spice blend which may include upwards of 50 spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, clove, turmeric and cayenne. The name, translated, means head of the shop, meaning the best on offer. Like many spice blends, there is no one way to make it, and variations exist from home to home, merchant to merchant. You can find ras el hanout in the spice section of your supermarket or specialty stores. If you cannot locate it, then I encourage you to try to make your own version. It’s easy to do, and I’ve included a recipe below.

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Figs

Serves 6 to 8.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2  to  3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 (14 ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock
12 dried Calimyrna or Turkish figs, halved
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout (recipe below)
1 (14 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Harissa or red chili paste
Fresh cilantro sprigs

Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, the coriander, cumin, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. 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 covered for up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Heat 2 tablespoons 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.
Add the onion and carrot to the same pot. Saute until softened, about 2 minutes, stirring up any brown bits. Add the garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, figs, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.  Return the lamb and any collected juices to the pot, submerging it in the stock. (Add additional chicken stock to cover, if necessary.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Transfer to oven and bake until lamb is falling apart tender, about 2 hours.
Transfer pot to stove. Remove lamb and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil uncovered until sauce is reduced by about half and thickened, skimming any fat.  Stir in the chickpeas and taste to check for seasoning. If necessary add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the stock. Return the lamb and vegetables to the pot. Serve warm spooned over couscous. Pass bowls of harissa and fresh cilantro around the table as condiments.

Ras El Hanout
adapted from The Food of Morocco by Tess Mallos

Be sure to use very fresh spices, or grind the whole dried spices.

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Combine all the spices together. Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place.
(Recipe may be halved.)

Baked Shrimp and Kale with Chermoula

~ Shrimp, Kale, Chermoula, Oven ~

It’s not fair to say that this recipe is all about the chermoula sauce. After all, shrimp and kale are no slouches when it comes to ingredients. It’s just that the chermoula does something wicked to this dish. Let me first tell you what chermoula is: a North African paste including cilantro, parsley, lemon, paprika, cumin and garlic. Typically chermoula is used as a marinade for fish, but I’ve used it with beef, chicken, thick slices of eggplant and cauliflower steaks; it always tastes good. So good, you might be tempted to eat it with a spoon or swipe a hunk of bread through it and call it a snack. In the case of this recipe, I dropped chermoula-coated shrimp over a bed of kale and popped the whole lot in the oven. It was almost too easy considering how good it turned out.

Baked Shrimp and Kale with Chermoula

For a smokier version, substitute the paprika with smoked paprika. Serves 4.

Chermoula:
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound large shrimp, deveined, shells removed
1 bunch lacinato kale, tough ribs removed
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Heat oven to 375 F.  Combine the chermoula ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix well. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Tear the kale leaves into large pieces. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch rectangular baking dish. Arrange the kale in one layer in the baking dish. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Dump the shrimp into the baking dish and arrange in one layer over the kale. Spoon any remaining chermoula over the kale and shrimp. Bake until the shrimp are bright in color and just cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Grilled Sriracha Chicken Skewers
Moroccan Lamb Stew
Coconut Shrimp Curry

Sausage, Kale and Tomato Ragout with Poached Egg and Chick Peas

Yes, I know it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s also hot in Tunisia, from where this recipe gets its inspiration. Shakshuka is a traditional Tunisian breakfast composed of simmered tomatoes, peppers, aromatics and poached eggs. It’s meant to be spicy which is a nifty DIY method for keeping cool in the Saharan heat. (The more you sweat, the more you cool off). As for me, I’ll take anything spicy for the sake of spice, regardless of temperature and geography – especially when it’s screams comfort food like this. The Tunisians call shakshuka breakfast, but I’ve added sausage, kale and chickpeas (why hold back?) and prefer to call it dinner. It’s delicious as is, served with crusty bread for mopping up the sauce and yolk. For a complete meal, spoon prepared couscous into shallow serving bowls. Make a well in the center of the couscous and ladle the ragout and and egg into the center of the couscous. All you need as an accompaniment is green salad, chilled wine – and a fan.

Sausage, Kale and Tomato Ragout with Poached Eggs and Chick Peas

Prepare this in a 10-inch deep skillet and serve family-style at the table. If you’re feeling fancy and are lucky enough to have cute individual skillets as pictured above, then prepare the ragout in one large skillet or pot. Before adding the eggs, divide the ragout between individual skillets placed on the stovetop over medium heat, and add one egg to each skillet. Serves 4 to 6.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 pound hot Italian or chorizo sausages, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 large garlic clove
6 ounces (small bunch) Tuscan/Lacinato kale leaves, ribs removed, coarsely chopped
1 32-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juce
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa or hot sauce, to taste
4 to 6 large eggs
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages. Cook, turning, until brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer sausages with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard the oil from the pan – do not rinse out the skillet. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion to the skillet. Saute onion over medium heat, scraping up any brown bits, until onion begins to soften, 2 minutes. Add garlic, paprika and cumin. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add kale and cook, stirring, until leaves brighten in color and begin to wilt. Return sausages to the pan. Add tomatoes, chick peas and salt; stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If desired, add harissa or hot sauce to taste. Simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat, to slightly thicken and allow the flavors to develop, 15 to 20 minutes. Make an indentation in the ragout with a spoon. Crack one egg in a small bowl. Gently slide egg into the indentation. Repeat with remaining eggs, taking care not to overlap the eggs. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the egg whites are set but the yolks remain runny, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Spoon ragout with one egg into individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley. Serve with crusty bread or prepared couscous.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Lamb Stew with Raisins and Honey from TasteFood
Spinach Gratin with Hardboiled Eggs from Simply Recipes
Farro, Kale and Butternut Squash Soup from TasteFood
Baby Kale, Mozzarella and Egg Bake from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Swiss Chard and Kale Frittata from TasteFood
Egg and Cheese Strata from Leite’s Culinaria

Moroccan Lamb Stew and a recipe for Ras el Hanout

Still fixated on warming stews, I recently prepared this lamb stew which not only has heat but the heady aroma of exotic spice. Its secret ingredient is ras el hanout. Ras el hanout is a north African spice blend which may include upwards of 50 spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, clove, turmeric and cayenne. The name, translated, means head of the shop, meaning the best on offer. Like many spice blends, there is no one way to make it, and variations exist from home to home, merchant to merchant.

At first, I made a version of this stew without the addition of ras el hanout, and it was very good. When I added ras el hanout to the recipe, the stew was excellent. You can find ras el hanout in the spice section of your supermarket or specialty stores. If you cannot locate it, then I encourage you to try to make your own version – it’s easy to do.

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Figs

The lamb is coated and marinated in a spice paste. As the meat browns in the pot, the spices will also brown and cook, adding a rich flavor and color to the stew.

Serves 6-8.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 – 3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut in 2 inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 – 14 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock
12 dried Calimyrna or Turkish figs, halved
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout (recipe below)
1 – 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Harissa or red chili paste
Fresh cilantro sprigs

Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Mix to form a paste. Place lamb in a large bowl. Rub paste all over lamb. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate covered up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or oven proof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add lamb in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer lamb to a plate or bowl.
Add onion and carrot to the same pot. Saute, stirring up the brown bits, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, figs, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.  Return lamb and any collected juices to the pot, submerging it in the stock. (Add additional chicken stock to cover, if necessary.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Transfer to oven and bake until lamb is falling apart tender, about 2 hours.
Transfer pot to stove. Remove lamb and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil uncovered until sauce is reduced by about half and thickened, skimming fat.  Stir in chickpeas. Taste to check for seasoning. If necessary add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the stock. Return lamb and vegetables to pot. (May be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, skim any collected fat from surface. Rewarm over medium-low heat or in a 325 F. oven.)
Serve with prepared couscous. Pass bowls of harissa and fresh cilantro around the table as condiments.

Ras El Hanout
adapted from The Food of Morocco by Tess Mallos

Be sure to use very fresh spices, or grind the whole dried spices.

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Combine all the spices together. Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place.
(Recipe may be halved.)