So…[insert smirk] Many “experts” are saying that Moroccan Cuisine is hot and trendy now; I want to go on the record to say that I have LOVED this cuisine since I can remember. It would seem that the cuisine of that area has been popular for thousands of years, not just this year. The spices and ingredients found in that region is what lead many nations throughout history to try and conquer that part of the world forever. My parents consider themselves citizens of the world with friends and acquaintances from all four corners of our little home (because there are only four…you know) and we tried every kind of cuisine we could sink our teeth into. The best way to describe it, is a light version of the mix between Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines (which makes some sense geographically). I am particularly fond of both cuisines and the combination of them is magic. The Moroccans have access to lots of different herbs and spices and they use them, but with a lighter, more subtle hand than in Indian cuisine. I have never been there but when I talk to people that have, they all get a wistful, glassy-eyed look of longing when they speak of the food.
Here we take some beautiful, and inexpensive lamb shoulder chops (I love the marrow in the center of the bones) and and just let them cook in the spices and its own juices until the meat is very tender and the fragrant sauce is slightly thickened and coats the chops like a rich man in a $3000 suit. We used several standard items for the cuisine: spices that are native to the area; lemon (Moroccan cuisine is famous for preserved lemons which are lemon cured in salt); chick peas (which are found in the cuisine of the entire region) and a few items to add a little sweetness (which is common in a lot of Moroccan dishes). I know this looks like a lot of ingredients but don’t be scared, this is a one pot meal. Traditionally served with couscous, we ate it with just a simple salad of romaine and a light lemon and olive oil dressing. Fantastic!
Lamb has become very popular because they are grass-fed. This is a less expensive way to have grass-fed red meat.
We buy most of our spices whole to maintain their essential oils and flavor longer and then grind them in a coffee mill as needed. Ground spices spoil quicker than whole seeds because the oil inherent in the seeds loses potency and toasting them maximizes the flavor.
- 6 shoulder lamb chops, cut into pieces along the natural seams of the meat
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp toasted coriander seeds, ground
- 2 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground
- 1 generous pinch saffron threads
- ½ onion, sliced
- 2 Tbsp dried cranberries (raisins are traditional, but dry cranberries work very well)
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
- 1 15 ½ oz can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon ()
- 2 Tbsp water1 tsp salt (Kosher)
Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan over low heat, then grind in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. In a mixing bowl large enough to accommodate the meat, make a paste with the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, saffron, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Toss in the meat, onion, garlic, and lemon juice and zest. Let this marinate for 10 minutes. Heat a large pan over low heat then add the meat with the marinade. Use the 2 tablespoons of water to rinse all of the left spices clinging to the bowl into the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and reduce the heat so that the dish simmers. Cover and cook until all the water is gone. Serve and enjoy!