Moroccan Lamb Stew: more than you wanted to know about photographing soups and stews
(Updated post) Moroccan Lamb Stew is near and dear to my heart because it’s the first recipe I ever posted on Flipped-Out Food (way back when it lived on a subpage of my other website where nobody could find it!). It has endured the insult of THE. MOST. HORRIBLE. photo for years:
(Looks at shoes and shuffles feet)
I’ve been working diligently on my photography skills since taking that hideous photo, even though I’m FAR from where I’d like to be. But I finally, finally got around to re-shooting this meal. Soups and stews are devilishly hard to photograph so that they look half as good as they taste. I expect that Moroccan Lamb Stew will get at least one more photo shoot before I’m happy, but this is miles better.
Making Moroccan Lamb Stew
Moroccan Lamb Stew is Phil’s favorite soup. It has an amazing flavor profile that ranges from cumin, coriander, and fennel to cinnamon, ginger, and apricots. The lamb is juicy and succulent; its flavor is set off perfectly by the sweetness of the apricots. If you’re not a fan of lamb, by all means use beef (a chuck roast cut into cubes would do just fine).
Giving the stew a Libyan flair
You can give this Moroccan Lamb Stew a Libyan flair by adding a tablespoon each of turmeric and paprika. Then, about 3/4 of the way through cooking, add in some cooked spaghetti squash. This type of squash is most easily prepared by stabbing the squash repeatedly with a knife and nuking it for about 10 minutes (but don’t let it explode!). Then pull its guts out (the slimy part), and shred the remaining squash into strands with a fork.
Cooking is rather violent, no?
I always make this stew a day in advance because it’s ALWAYS better on the second day, when the flavors have had a chance to meld and deepen in complexity. (It’s EVEN BETTER on the third day!)
Browning the meat
I like to brown the meat in small batches over medium-high heat, cooking until browned on all sides. When the lamb is brown, I transfer it to a large, clean bowl. I also like to do an overnight marinade with the meat in wine/beer: it helps break down any remaining connective tissue and makes the meat incredibly tender. If you opt for this step, deglaze the pan with the wine or beer, scrape up the brown bits, and mix that delicious concoction with the meat you’ve browned. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Then I pick up with sautéeing the veggies and assembling the stew the next morning.
There are a couple of options for cooking methods. You can cook the Moroccan Lamb Stew in a 325 degree oven for 2-3 hours: cover it with parchment paper (as in, actually rest the parchment paper on the surface of the stew and up the sides of the pot, then cover tightly). Add the squash for the Libyan version at 1 1/2 to 2 hours. OR, you can put the whole shebang in a crock pot, set the thing on low, and see what happens when you get home from work. You can now add the spaghetti squash for the Libyan version if you’d like, raise the heat to high, and cook for about half an hour more. I’ve done it all three ways, and I have to say that this path-of-least resistance method works just as well.
Make the stew ahead!
If you’re making this Moroccan Lamb Stew a day in advance, allow the finished stew to cool. The best way to do this is to remove it from the heat for 15 minutes. Then, put it in a cold water bath in the sink for an additional 10 minutes. Place the uncovered pot in the refrigerator (set it on a kitchen towel first so you can wipe the sides and avoid making a mess) until completely cooled, and then add the lid.
I like to squeeze some lemon juice over the stew right before serving and then garnish with chopped cilantro (if you’re a hater, leave it out!). And that’s it. I hope your family will enjoy my version of Moroccan Lamb Stew as much as we do!
I’m linking my Moroccan Lamb Stew recipe up with:
- #CookBlogShare, a great food blogger recipe-share at Easy Peasy Foodie.
- #CookOnceEatTwice, for recipes that are just as good left-over as they are when you made them, hosted by Searching for Spice.
- #BrillBlogPosts, a link party with a variety of lifestyle reads hosted by Honest Mum.
- Friday Frenzy, hosted at Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck.
Moroccan Lamb Stew
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp salt - adjust to taste
- 1 tsp fennel seeds - I like to grind them lightly in a mortar & pestle
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper - or to taste (I like more!)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper - or to taste
- 2 1/2 lbs trimmed boned lamb shoulder - I've used leg too!, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces
- 4 tbsp olive oil - divided
- 1 large onion - finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine or dark beer
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 large can of garbanzo beans - chickpeas, drained
- 1 cup dried apricots - chopped into large chunks (about 5 ounces)
- 2 large plum tomatoes - chopped (or use a can of stewed tomatoes, drained and crushed)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tbsp finely minced - peeled fresh ginger
- 2 tsp packed grated lemon peel
- Lots of chopped - fresh cilantro (optional)
- lemon wedges - for serving
FOR A LIBYAN-INSPIRED RIFF:
- 1 tbsp. turmeric
- 1 tbsp. paprika
- 2 cups spaghetti squash - cooked, seeded, and scraped out from the shell
- Mix the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the lamb and mix to coat. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large, heavy skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Working in small batches, add the lamb to the pot and cook until browned on all sides (about 8 minutes per batch), turning occasionally. If needed, add 2 additional tbsp of oil to the pot between batches. Transfer the lamb to a large, clean bowl after browning each batch.
OPTIONAL MARINATING STEP:
- If you plan to marinate the meat overnight, deglaze the pan with wine or beer, making sure to scrape up the yummy brown bits. Let cool, and then store in a tightly sealed zip-top bag overnight, turning occasionally. Then resume with the aromatics in the morning, adding the lamb mixture back to the pot at the normal deglaze step (below). OR, simply move forward with the steps below.
PREPARING THE AROMATICS AND DEGLAZING:
- Add the onion to your pot and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. If you are doing the Libyan riff, add the paprika and turmeric; sauté for 1 minute. Turn heat to high and add in the wine or beer to deglaze the pan (if you skipped the overnight marinade above; otherwise, add in the lamb mixture). Add the broth, garbanzo beans, apricots, tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, ginger, and lemon peel and bring to boil, scraping up any the delicious browned bits.
COOKING OPTION #1: STOVETOP
- Return the lamb to your pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lamb is just tender, about 1 hour. Uncover and simmer until the sauce thickens up enough to coat a spoon, about 20 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
COOKING OPTION #2: THE OVEN
- After bringing the stew to a boil, cover with parchment paper, resting the parchment paper directly on the surface of the stew and up the sides of the pot. Cover tightly and place in a 325 degree oven for 2-3 hours. Add the squash for the Libyan version at 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
COOKING OPTION #3: THE SLOW-COOKER
- After deglazing your pan, pour the contents into the crock of your slow-cooker. Mix in the broth, garbanzo beans, apricots, tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, ginger, and lemon peel. Set the slow-cooker on low; let cook for a minimum of 6 hours (up to 8). Add the spaghetti squash for the Libyan version (if you'd like), raise the heat to high, and cook for about half an hour.
- Serve the stew in warmed bowls with cilantro. Garnish with lemon wedges.
- The stew goes wonderfully with couscous or rice.
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