Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mali: Timbuktu lamb stew with couscous

I love eating lamb, but until I started making this stew I forgot what a pain in the ass it can be to cook with. Most of the better cuts I've come across in the grocery stores involve large hunks of bone that make it difficult to salvage all of the meat from.

Either way, the effort is well worth it. I've done several other slow-cook stews that involve lamb, and I think it could just be the perfect way to cook it. The stewing process makes the sweet meat deliciously soft and tender.

This recipe is marked by just about every spice in the spice aisle. (That's a slight exaggeration, but you seriously use eight, not including the salt or garlic). It creates an amazing flavor combination that dances across your palate leaving hints of sweet, tangy and finally the hot from the cayenne pepper.
Anyway, for the most part I followed this recipe from, with some alterations with ingredients and techniques.
One of the most noticeable differences is that I used carrots in mine (in my never ending effort to use all of the food in my refrigerator). I also thought it could use some color. I was also fairly arbitrary about the spice adding.

1/2 cup olive oil
About 2 pounds of lamb, cut into 2 inch chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks about the size of the meat
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tbsp. ground cardamon
2 tbsps. ground ginger
more pepper
1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 can whole tomatoes
2 yellow onions
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cup dates pureed
chopped parsley

What to do:

Season the lamb with salt and pepper (I usually do this before I cut it into the cube pieces). Heat the oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and the meat and cook until browned. Add the carrots and cook a few more minutes. Next add the following spices: cumin, fennel seeds, cardamon, ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and cook a few minutes.

Then add the can of tomatoes and their juices. Add water to cover all of the meat and bring pot to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and let cook for an hour.

When the hour is up, add the onions, date puree and cinnamon. Again, bring this to a boil then reduce to a simmer for another 30 to 40 minutes. You want to cook it until the juice thickens.

You can eat this dish over couscous, or just as is (which is actually what I did with a side of potatoes au gratin). Sprinkle with the parsley before serving.


  1. This looks amazing. The gruyere reference in the last post though really has my mouth watering. This blog is actually a form of torture for me.

  2. Just look forward to when you come home!!! I will prepare the grandest of all feasts for you. Better than in the Bible!