Friday, October 18, 2013

Ingredient 33 – Ras el Hanout

This week's ingredient was Ras el Hanout, a North African spice blend.  Ras el Hanut is an Arabic term that translates to "top or head of the shop".  As the name suggests, Ras el Hanout is a blend of a merchant's best spices.  There is no specific formula for the blend, each merchant makes it a bit differently.  However, the blend typically contains cardamom, clove, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin, mace, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric.  My blend had coriander, allspice, fennel, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, anise seed, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and tumeric.

I purchased my Ras el Hanout during my visit to Union Market this summer.  If you don't have access to a local spice shop, the blend can be purchased from the Williams-Sonoma website          
When I read the list of spices that make up Ras el Hanout, lamb was the first thing to come to mind.  I love lamb but only cook it a few times a year so I am always happy when I find a good excuse to prepare some.  I decided to make Moroccan lamb stew because 1. Morocco is a North African country and 2. I have had very little exposure to Moroccan food, blog goals achieved. 

Moroccan Lamb Stew 
Serves 3 to 4
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
1.5 lbs lamb stew meat, cubed
1 yellow onion
4 carrots
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup dates, chopped
2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup orange juice
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 tbp ginger, 1 inch piece chopped
1/4 flour
4 tbp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp Ras el Hanout
1 box Pearled Couscous


Begin by preparing all the ingredients.  Peel and chop the carrots, onion, garlic and ginger.  Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer skin of the ginger before chopping.  Chop the dates and measure out the broth, orange juice and crushed tomatoes.


Next, place the flour, salt and 2 teaspoons of Ras el Hanout in a large plastic zipper bag.  Close the bag and shake until well mixed.  Remove the lamb from its packaging and pat it dry with paper towels.  When dry, place half the lamb cubes in the bag and shake to cover with the flour mixture.  Place the coated cubes in a bowl and repeat the process until all the cubes are coated.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven, medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the carrots and sauté for another two to 3 minutes.  Place the veggies in a bowl and heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, medium heat.  Place half of the lamb cures in the pan to brown, turn every 2 to 3 minutes until all sides are brown.  Once fully browned, remove the cubes and repeat the process with the other half of the lamb.


Once all the meat is browned, place it and the sautéed vegetables back in the dutch oven.  Add the garlic, ginger, and two teaspoons of Ras el Hanout, stir to ensure that the Ras el Hanout gets well distributed.  Add the beef stock and bring to a boil.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape the burnt bits off the bottom of the pan so they can cook into the sauce.


Once the stock has started to boil, add the tomatoes, orange juice, and chopped dates.  Stir in the new ingredients and let the mixture come to a boil.  Once the pot has come to a boil, turn off the heat, cover it with the lid and place in the oven for 50 minutes.

When the stew has 20 minutes left in the oven, prepare the couscous per the instructions on the package.  Pearled couscous takes roughly 20 minutes to make, so the stew and couscous should finish at approximately the same time.  When both are finished, pour the couscous into the dutch oven and stir gently to combine.  Give the pot 5 to 10 minutes to cool and then dish the stew into bowls and enjoy. 


I really loved this dish.  It had lots of flavor without being really spicy.  In fact, spicy would not be a good adjective to describe this stew.  It was hearty and satisfying without being overly rich, my kind of cold weather food.

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