For Maria

Two lamb stew recipes, no big whoop, for my friend Maria.

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Merguez
Serves 5

Merguez is a North African lamb sausage. I can find it in my organic coop; if you can't get your hands on it you can leave it out and up the amoung of boneless leg of lamb to 1.5 lb. This stew also benefits from the addition of zucchini or winter squash, cubed, if you'd like.

2 TB olive oil
1 lb boneless leg of lamb, well-trimmed and cut into 1.5" cubes
12 oz merguez sausage, cut into 3" pieces
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 garlic cloves, minced
1" piece of ginger, grated
1.5 TB ras el hanout, OR 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, combined in a small bowl
1 TB tomato paste
3 TB chopped cilantro
2 tsp dried mint, or 3 TB chopped mint
1 medium tomato, diced
salt and freshly gound pepper
1 c cooked chick peas

1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. When hot, add sausage pieces to the pot. Brown, then remove to a plate. Season lamb pieces liberally with salt and pepper. Add to the pot and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.

2. When lamb is browned, add onions, carrots, garlic and ginger, and sauté until the onions turn transluscent, about 3 minutes. Add ras el hanout (or spice mixture) and sauté for 30 seconds, mixing well. Add tomato paste and mix and sauté for another 30 seconds until it loses its raw smell.

3. Add cilantro, mint, and tomato, along with enough water to cover the lamb. Bring to a simmer; cover and cook for 35 minutes.

4. Return merguez to the pot along with chick peas. Simmer for another 25 minutes, or until lamb is very tender and the flavors have melded. Check for salt. Serve over prepared couscous.

Comforting Lamb Stew
Serves 5

2 TB olive oil
1-1/2 lb lamb stewing meat
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 plump garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 TB chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 c chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)
2 large waxy potatoes, cut into 1/2 cubes
1 c frozen peas (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Season lamb pieces liberally with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, add pieces to the pan, being careful not to crowd them. (Do this in batches if necessary). Allow to brown on all sides. Remove to a plate.

2. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and a hefty pinch of salt to the pot and sauté till the onion starts to take on a golden color, about 5 minutes. (Adjust heat so it doesn't scorch.) Add thyme, bay leaves, and chopped parsley and stir. Add lamb back to the pot, along with tomatoes and enough water to barely cover the mixture. Bring to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook on medium-low heat for about 1 hr. (The lamb should be quite tender at this point; if it still seems tough, allow to cook another 15-20 mins before proceeding.)

3. Add potatoes to the pot, and let the mixture stew for an additional 20 minutes or until the potatoes and meat are both very tender. Add peas to the pot, if using, and adjust for salt. Let the mixture simmer until the peas are just cooked. Serve hot, with bread for dunking.


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