Lamb stew, prepared with fragrant spices and local vegetables and rice or couscous, is a popular dish throughout the Middle East. In the United States, chicken is a popular substitution, but among those of Middle Eastern ancestry, it is lamb and only lamb that forms the backbone of this hearty stew. Lamb stew may have such an important place in Middle Eastern culture because ancient Mesopotamia is where sheep were first domesticated. Sheep and lambs have been reared for use in food, clothing, and religious ceremony ever since. Christians serve lamb on Easter, Jewish people serve it on Passover, and Arab people serve lamb for nearly every celebratory feast.
Recipe Servings: 6
- 6 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 6 potatoes, cubed
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- Salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- 2½ lbs lamb shoulder, bones removed, chopped
- ½ cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ras el hanout (moroccan spice blend)
- ½ tsp dried ground ginger
- 1 can (28 oz) plum tomatoes, halved
- 2½ cups beef broth
- 1 can (16 oz) chickpeas
- Rice or couscous, as needed for serving
- Pita bread, as needed for serving
- Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large oven-proof pot. Add onion, carrots, and potatoes, and cook to soften.
- Add garlic and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove vegetables from pot and set aside.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in the pot and add lamb pieces. Brown, and then season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Return vegetables to pot, and add apricots, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, allspice, ras el hanout, and ginger. Stir to combine.
- Add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
- Place pot in oven and cook for 60 minutes.
- Add chickpeas and let cook another 30 minutes.
- Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf before serving. Serve over rice or couscous or with pita.
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