Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lamb Stew with Exotic Flavors PLUS Bonus Dinner!

Whenever I go to yoga, it makes me think of India. I have a small - OK large -
obsession with that country...and no, I haven't been there - yet (I'm currently accepting donations to the Send Me to India Fund - rupees and dollars accepted).

This manifests itself in a myriad of ways: a chai latte at Starbucks, microwaveable palak paneer pouches, and - if I'm most fortunate - a trip to the Indian buffet. At the very least, my yoga-cum-Indian-cravings at the very least motivate me to scrounge through my spice cabinet for interesting flavors.

I had almost forgotten about my half-pouch of ras el hanout from my trip to the Spice House awhile back. I thought it would be the perfect way to lend a transcontinental flair to the lamb stew I was planning on making this evening (from the leftover Mint Creek farm lamb that I'd frozen). Frankly, I wasn't sure how the ras el hanout would blend with the spices that I'd rubbed on the lamb before (garlic, thyme, etc.), but this being the Fearless kitchen and all, I figured I'd throw it all in and see what came of it.

Oh - now might be the time in my narrative to explain that ras el hanout is not actually an Indian spice - it's Middle Eastern. Sometimes, my Indian obsession manifests itself in ways that, quite frankly, make very little geographical sense. That notwithstanding, I present to you:



1 lb. lamb leg (mine was previously roasted and frozen; fresh would obviously be ideal)
1 large baking potato, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 red onion (or any onion), chunked
1 and 1/2 T. ras el hanout
2 c. chicken broth
1 c. cooked whole wheat couscous
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
salt and pepper


Combine all ingredients except for couscous in Crockpot. Cook over low for 6 hours, until lamb is spoon-tender.*


Cook couscous according to package directions. Serve lamb stew over couscous and top with cilantro. Enjoy!

*When cooking in a Crockpot, I never season with salt and pepper until the very end. The nature of slow-cooking dictates that you can't taste your dish all along, so I recommend waiting until the end to season, so you don't grossly oversalt something.

The lamb stew came out really well - the lamb was fall-apart tender, the potatoes were hearty, and the ras el hanout made it all interesting. The flavors of ras el hanout are so different from typical, everyday American flavors - I really encourage you to try some if you happen across it.

I wanted to include this little BONUS recipe, just because I made it the other night, and I thought it would be a great introduction to those just beginning to experiment in the kitchen. So many people say to me, "I read your blog, but I know I could never make those recipes!" Not true. Something like the beans-rice-and-sausage recipe below (inspired by the much more complex jambalaya, a favorite of mine) is something that literally an 8-year-old could make (provided he or she could safely wield a can-opener).

I whipped this up on a chill Saturday night in, and it was the perfect bowl of hearty goodness to curl up and eat on the couch, book in hand. (It would also be wonderful topped with a dollop of sour cream.) So to those of you who wouldn't know a whisk from a waffle iron, behold the following: a meal you can make at home, easily and quickly, with very inexpensive ingredients. Magic!



about 15 thin slices kielbasa sausage*
1 can "Southwest" style black beans
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 c. dry white rice
splash of chicken broth
squeeze of hot sauce
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

*I have a ton of kielbasa around due to my CostCo trip awhile back, but this is also great with chicken, shrimp, or really any variety of sausage (turkey Italian sausage would be good), or with tofu if you're a vegetarian. If you don't like tofu but don't eat meat, I'd throw in something with a neutral flavor, like zucchini. It would also be good with butternut squash.


In a large skillet, brown kielbasa. Do not drain.


Add the beans with liquid, tomatoes with juices, and rice to the skillet. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 10 minutes, adding a little chicken broth if the mixture isn't liquidy enough. Stir in the hot sauce and top with cilantro. Enjoy!

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