Moroccans have a fondness for combining fruit with meat, and they even boost the sweetness by adding honey, as in this dish. You can adjust the quantities of honey and raisins according to taste.
Ras el hanout, which is often translated as "head of the shop," refers to a combination of the best spices the vendor can provide. There are many versions of this aromatic blend, with recipes ranging from simple to complex. The North African spice mixture usually contains cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili peppers, cardamom, turmeric, allspice and rose petals.
- 3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into large (1- to 1 1/2-inch) cubes
- 3 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mixture (see related recipe)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3/4 cup raisins, plumped in warm water and drained
- 1 cup skin-on whole almonds, toasted
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the lamb in a bowl and sprinkle with the ras el hanout and salt and pepper to taste, tossing to coat. Heat the oil in an ovenproof, flameproof casserole over medium heat and add the onion; cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until soft. Move the onion to the sides of the casserole and add the meat; brown lightly on all sides; this will take about 7 minutes. Pour the water over the lamb, then add the honey and cinnamon sticks, stirring to combine. Cover tightly, transfer to the oven and bake for 3 to 4 hours or until the lamb is fork-tender.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a bowl; keep warm. Skim off and discard any excess fat from the broth, then place the casserole over low heat on the stovetop and add the raisins. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about one-third or approaches a syrupy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Return the lamb to the pot and add the toasted almonds. Stir to coat with the sauce, then transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with parsley. Discard the cinnamon sticks before serving.
Adapted from "The Ethnic Paris Cookbook," by Charlotte Puckette and Olivia Kiang-Snaije (DK Publishing, 2007).
Tested by Annie Groer.
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