What would winter be without snow? (The Bahamas, that’s what.) Winter with snow is what made Currier and Ives famous, what gives New Englanders character, and what causes some people to regard year-round Maine residents as a bit dotty. I, for one, was happy to see the snow a couple of weeks ago. I want at least one weekend when walking down the sidewalk in front of my house resembles McMurdo Station, when everyone exercises the exquisite protocols that dictate who first steps aside, and who passes. This week’s recipe is what all of us hope to find when we come inside from shoveling, a dish that fills the air with aromas as good as a back rub, Lamb Stew with Chick Peas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron.
Did I mention this is done in a pressure cooker?* It’s not hard without a pressure cooker, just longer. This stew includes preserved lemons, one of Morocco’s great culinary gifts to the rest of us. If you’d like to make your own–we switch between making our own and picking up a container of them at Whole Foods–then our friend and fellow food blogger Sally Vargas’s recipe for them is quite good. Or, if you actually need an excuse, let the desire for DIY preserved lemons be your rationale for picking up a copy of Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
Like all stews, this is even better the next day, especially if you’re snowed in. Enjoy. Ken
*The history of pressure cookers can be found in Chicken Curry with Carrots and Ginger.
Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron
Serves 4, with leftovers
- 1½ pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, peeled and cut into eighths
- 9-10 ounces ounces turnips, peeled and cut into quarters
- 9-10 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
- ½ pound lamb sausage, preferably merguez, cut into 2-inch pieces
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 generous pinch saffron
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 cup pitted green olives
- 1 preserved lemon, cut into ¼-inch dice (chop the pith roughly)
- 4 dates, pitted and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
If not using a pressure cooker, follow the recipe up through Step 4, using a Dutch oven or heavy deep-sided pot with a lid. In Step 5, omit the trivet, stir in the saffron, add the cinnamon stick, and then return the meat vegetables and sausage to the pot in layers as described. The stock should come to the top of the meat. Cover with a circle of parchment and then a lid. Cook over the lowest heat until the meat is very tender, 2½ to 3 hours. Check the stock level every hour or so, adding more as needed (include an extra cup of stock in the ingredients for adding later). When the meat is tender, pick up the recipe in Step 6, adding the rest of the ingredients, etc.
- Season the lamb with salt, pepper and the paprika. Toss with the flour. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook until lightly browned. This will take about 15 minutes. The depth of the pot means that the vegetables will steam a bit. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan and add half the meat. Sear on 2 sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining lamb and the sausage.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine and chicken stock.
- Put the trivet into the bottom of the pressure cooker. Stir in the saffron and add the cinnamon stick. Return the meat to the pot in an initial layer, then put the sausage on top, and finally add the vegetables. Cover and bring up to high pressure. Cook 10 minutes. Allow the steam to release naturally.
- Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and cook on low 3-4 minutes to heat through. Serve with couscous and harissa.
My mother didn’t pull any punches about our last month of posts: “Jody dear, I have to tell you, recently The Garum Factory has left me cold.” I could appreciate that she might not want to prepare a full Blue Zone Casado, but wasn’t she interested in the sweet potato wontons? “Nope.”
She’s in her early 80’s, has her own healthy lifestyle, and isn’t about to start fooling around with taro or cashew sauce. She exercises every morning–her version of calisthenics and stretching followed by a walk to get the paper. She has a garden, and works on it in the warm weather. She lives in the house we grew up in, which means she climbs a steep set of stairs multiple times a day. She eats 3 balanced meals with lots of fruits and vegetables and enjoys a glass of wine. Her neighborhood is chock full of friends, young and old; and her a social schedule puts mine to shame. She’s sharp as a tack, troubles to inform herself about current affairs and has a jolly sense of humor. She’s already living in her own personal Blue Zone and doesn’t need the Garum Factory messing with it.
She does love lamb, but probably won’t make this stew since the flavoring is a little exotic (she’s not quite as adventurous a cook as she was 30 years ago). Anyway, she lost track of her pressure cooker around the first Reagan presidency.
But we’re hoping that if we lost some of you in the Blue Zones, this stew will bring you back. It’s so yummy, and with a pressure cooker, so simple. Sweet, sour, briny, spicy flavors wrap around my favorite meat, lamb. Be sure to add the pith of the preserved lemon along with the chopped rind–it adds an enormous amount of flavor.
The vegetables are soft in this dish. It’s the nature of the beast. If that’s really a problem for you, prepare the stew the traditional way in a Dutch oven, adding the vegetables part way through the cooking. If you interrupt the cooking of the lamb in the pressure cooker, you run the risk of messing with the texture of the meat.
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