Saturday, August 4, 2012

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Cannellini Beans

The format of this dish has become a common theme for my cooking: some kind of slow cooked meat, vegetables, and beans. It's a one-pot dish, it's easy to make in large quantities, it keeps well, and it makes an easy lunch to bring to the office. Of course, if you make in large quantities, you usually end up eating the same thing for lunch most of the week, so varying the ingredients from week to week becomes a necessity. 

I was looking for a new idea when my mom suggested trying an Indian-inspired dish. I had never made Indian food before, but a quick Google search for "moroccan stew" provided a plethora of recipes to pull from. I didn't have many of the traditional Indian spices (tumeric, cardamom, cinnamon, anise, cloves, etc.) so I decided that buying a spice blend would be the most economical choice for this dish.  Of course, spice blends are economical for a reason: they're normally mostly salt.  Still, I wasn't prepared to spend $30 stock my cabinet with spices I didn't expect to use very often, so I forged ahead. After scouring the spice aisle at Whole Foods for blends that had all the spices I was looking for, I settled on this:

Despite the first ingredient being salt, this had all the other necessary spices and turned out to be quite good. The deep red of the blend gave the dish great color. If you have an extensive spice collection than you can make your own blend, but this is the next best thing.

My recipe uses lamb, but this would be great with chicken thighs as well.

4-6 pounds lamb shoulder
1 large onion, rough chopped
3 carrots, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
4 teaspoons chicken base
1 quart water
4 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Punjab Red Tandoori spice blend
olive oil

1. Preheat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add olive oil and/or butter to cover bottom. Season lamb shoulder liberally on all sides with spice blend. Sear shoulder on all sides and remove.

2. Add onions and carrots and saute until soft, 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 2 more minutes. 

3. Add water and chicken base and bring to a boil. Stir to ensure the chicken base gets dissolved in the water. Return the lamb to the pot. Cover tightly with lid and cook in a 350 degree oven for three hours.

4. Remove lamb from pot and fork-shred. Meanwhile, spoon off excess fat from surface of braising liquid (this can be accomplished by resting the bottom of a large spoon on the top of the liquid, and slowly submerging it in order to get the fat on the surface). Once you have removed most of the fat, return the pot to medium high heat and bring to a boil.

5. Once you have brought the liquid to a boil, return the shredded lamb to the pot and add the beans. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring often to ensure the beans do not burn. Finish with chopped cilantro.

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