Every time I walk into a Whole Foods grocery store, I transform into a hyperactive eight year old during recess. I race up and down the aisles, imagining all the dishes I could possibly make. I love the fresh produce, the whole fish on ice and that magnificent salad bar. My excitement comes to an abrupt halt when I see Wild Alaskan King Salmon for $32. Ouch.
Yes, I know. I really shouldn’t be shopping at a grocery store where toilet paper costs $5.00 a roll. But hey, we all have our weaknesses.
On a recent trip to a Whole Foods in Friendship Heights, I discovered lamb shanks in the meat section. For about a pound, they were just under five dollars. Next to the shanks were lamb necks, which were only $2.50 for a pound. Lamb and cheap don’t belong in the same sentence, right? Unable to pass this deal up, I bought two shanks and four neck bones.
What to do with six, relatively obscure cuts of meat? Because lamb shanks and neck bones are rather tough and fatty, they must be braised or stewed until the meat easily falls off the bone. Oh yes. More fat means more FLAVOR!
I finally decided on my take on a popular Moroccan stew dish called tagine. Originating from North Africa, the meaning of the tagine varies by country. Moroccans prepare a tagine by braising tougher cuts of meat and vegetables in an aromatic sauce until tender. It is almost always served with couscous.
The traditional cooking vessel, called a tagine pot, resembles a cone-shaped clay or ceramic cooking vessel that requires very little water to use. The tagine’s cone-shape locks moisture inside during cooking, ensuring a flavorful stew. In this recipe, I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Like the tagine, the Dutch oven can maintain a gentle simmer at low, even heat for a long time, making it a great choice for stews, soups or braises.
If you don’t own a Dutch oven, you can also use a deep pot with a good lid. Here’s the recipe below:
Lamb Stew with Moroccan Spices
Adapted from The Midnight Feast
- Blended oil (You can find this at your grocery store – it’s a combination of canola and olive oil. I use this because it has a higher smoke point, but still has flavor.)
- 4 lamb neck bones (about 1 lb.)
- 2 lamb shanks (about 1 ½ lb.)
- 4 medium carrots
- 1 large onion
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large can whole tomatoes
- ½ quart chicken stock
- Chickpeas (I prefer dried, but you can use canned)
- Salt and pepper
- Golden raisins
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Fresh parsley
- If using dried chickpeas, make sure to soak them in plenty of water the night before.
- Peel and slice carrots. I sliced them a medium thickness and on a bias, but feel free to do it however you prefer.
- Chop onion, medium dice (if it’s too small, the pieces will burn). Peel garlic and smash the clove using the flat side of your knife.
- Combine carrots, onions and garlic in a bowl and set aside.
- Combine all spices in a bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large pan. Season lamb neck bones and shank with salt and pepper. Over high heat, brown the meat.
- Remove the meat from the pan and place it in the Dutch oven. Pour out excess grease and add the carrots, onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, stirring or tossing to combine.
- Cook vegetables for 3-4 minutes and then pour over the browned meat in the Dutch oven.
- Add spices to meat and vegetables, stirring to make sure everything is coated evenly.
- Add chicken stock and the canned tomatoes and turn on heat to high. Bring to a boil and lower heat. While stew is heating up, use your spoon to mash up the whole tomatoes a bit.
- Cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours. The meat should easily pull away from the bones when it is ready.
- Add the chickpeas to the stew. If you are using dried chickpeas, continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes to make sure they are cooked. They should be a little crunchy, but not hard.
- Using tongs, remove shanks and neck bones from stew onto a plate. Use a fork to gently pull the meat away from the bones (scrape any excess fat off of the meat). Add the meat back to the stew and stir to combine.
- Add golden raisins to stew. Season the stew with salt and pepper and add juice from 1 lemon.
- Garnish the stew with chopped parsley and serve over couscous. Enjoy!
I loved the combination of spices in this stew. Because I haven’t worked with ground coriander very much in the past, I was excited to get to know it a little better in this recipe. Ground coriander’s subtle tones of citrus worked with the cayenne and crushed red pepper to brighten up the stew’s flavor. The sweetness of the golden raisins was a nice touch, too.
If I made this stew again, I might try a boneless lamb shoulder, cubed and trimmed of all of its fat. If you’d rather use a different budget-friendly protein, look into eye of round steak (it’s very lean) or chicken thighs (not quite as lean, but still cheap!).