If you couldn’t tell, 2013 was a very busy year for me. Not a single blog post! As much as I wanted to take photos of the food I was cooking and share them with my family and friends, sleep deprivation took over. My daughter was born in February, and being a first time parent was a big change. I thought maternity leave would be a perfect time to try new recipes and get back into the kitchen after a very tiresome pregnancy. I guess no one told me that when the baby was napping, the only thing I would want to do was sit in my sweat pants and eat Wheat Thins and hummus while catching up on year old episodes of Downton Abbey and Top Chef. The little amount of energy I had remaining was used toward such fun tasks as scrubbing spit up out of my clothes or cleaning a never ending pile of bottles. 2013 was definitely one of the most exciting years of my life, but it was also geared solely to my daughter and to motherhood. Since Naia (my daughter) is now almost a year old and finally on somewhat of a schedule, I am hoping to find some balance this year and do more of some of the things I love (cook, eat, and share!). And as Naia grows older, hopefully she will enjoy being my sous chef.
So how did I ring in the New Year? I would like to say with champagne at midnight, but that would be a lie, I was in bed by 11pm! I did have a glass of bubbly the next morning though after braving the annual Dillards New Year Sale, and it was exactly what I needed (every year the crowds at the sale get crazier and crazier). After decompressing from the sale, I got busy in the kitchen. My husband gave me a tagine for Christmas and I was excited to create something sweet and spicy. If you don’t know what a tagine is, it’s an awesome looking, terra-cotta, cone-shaped pot that is used in exotic, far-off places like Morocco to cook flavorful stews. I have been eyeing one for years, but always talk myself out of it because it is just one more kitchen apparatus that would have to be squeezed into a cabinet 360 days out of the year. I am so glad I received one as a gift so I no longer have to argue with myself every time I go into Sur la Table.
I decided to break-in the tagine with a traditional sweet and spicy lamb stew. As mentioned in previous posts (click here), I am a big fan of lamb, but rarely do I buy it since it is so pricey. I decided it was worth the splurge for our first meal of the new year. Inspiration for this recipe came from a Tagine cookbook that my husband gave me and also from an article I read about 4 years ago in Sunset Magazine about a baharat spice blend. Baharat is used in Middle Eastern cooking and varies from country to country and family to family. I have made a baharat blend before, but couldn’t remember exactly what spices I had used. For this tagine I made a mixture that was sweet and warm but not overly mouth hot. The black pepper is the only spice that has heat, so you can adjust the level of pepper depending on how hot you like the dish. I sweetened up the stew by adding chopped dates and yams. This definitely took the stew to the sweeter side, but I thought it was a nice contrast to the gaminess of the meat and the spiciness from the baharat and the syrah wine (did I forget to mention that I put a cup of wine in this stew?). An added bonus is that once the tagine is on the stove, there is still a couple of glasses of wine left. Both my husband and I agreed that this was a nice and hearty, flavorful meal to celebrate the close of one long and tiring year. We look forward to the challenges 2014 has to offer (the baby is starting to walk!), and maybe next New Year’s Naia will have enough teeth to enjoy lamb as well!
Sweet Lamb Tangine
4 Servings (when served over couscous)
3 TBSP olive oil
1 lb lamb leg – boneless & cut into 1″cubes (I used a lamb leg steak)
1 yellow onion – medium dice
2 TBSP baharat spice blend (see below)
14 oz can diced tomato
1 c. Syrah wine
2 oz dates – chopped
1 yam – medium dice
1 cup chicken broth (as needed)
salt to taste
Cilantro – garnish
Mint – garnish
Cashews – garnish
*Since I know most people do not own a tagine, I wrote the recipe to be used with a heavy-bottomed pot. This dish can be served as a stew, or over cooked Israeli couscous for a fuller meal.
Baharat Spice Blend
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cumin
- Using a medium-sized, heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is hot and starts to sizzle. Season the lamb cubes with salt, and then carefully place each cube into the pot to brown. Use tongs to sear each side of the meat, and then remove the lamb from the pot (it does not need to be cooked all the way through).
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion to the pot. There should be enough oil and fat to coat the onion, if not, add a little more oil. Cook the onion until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the lamb back to the pot and add the baharat spice mix and salt to taste. Stir until everything is well coated. De-glaze the bottom of the pot with the red wine. Turn the heat down to low, and then add the diced tomatoes and half a cup of the chicken stock. Place the lid on the pot and let simmer for an hour and a half.
- Remove the lid and check how tender the lamb is. If it is still a little chewy, let it simmer for another half hour. If not, add the chopped dates and the yam. Let the stew simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Taste the stew and add salt to taste. If you would like a thinner stew add a little more chicken stock, and if you would like it thicker, turn up the heat and let it reduce some.
- Serve the stew as is, or over cooked israeli couscous. Garnish with the chopped mint, cilantro, and cashews.