Lamb & Chickpea ‘Tagine’

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Ok, so this isn’t a real tagine because, well, I didn’t make it in a tagine. I used the word in the title because it’s so evocative of the flavors and cuisine I was trying to cook tonight. I do really want a tagine one of these days, along with all sorts of other cool kitchen items I currently don’t have (I’m looking at you molcajete, fancy chopsticks, wok, Chinese soup spoons…) Using a dutch oven is a reasonable approximation, so that’s what we went with today.

We both love the flavors of the greater Middle East/Northern Africa. You may have noticed that if you’ve read more of our blog than just this post via Pinterest. I would venture a guess that dishes from that part of the world make up the highest percentage of our blog, as compared to other regions. Check out some of our other creations… they range from main dishes like Bahraini Chicken Machboos or Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha) to Spinach & Feta Gözleme, to some of Ally’s beloved soups like Persian Spiced Lentil Soup or North African Wedding Soup, to delicious snacks like Muhammara and Spicy Feta Dip, and even Baklava! So many amazing and varied dishes! The flavors here tonight are incredibly similar to our Tangy Moroccan Meatballs, which is one of Ally’s favorite meals we’ve ever made and shared on this blog. The main differences between the two are the addition of the chickpeas tonight, which allows the dish to easily stand alone without the addition of another starch, and the obvious fact that last time we made meatballs, while this time we braised some tender lamb chunks. It’s also a bit spicier and a bit less tangy than the meatball dish. Some variety is good! Last note – this, like many other braised/stewed dishes is SO much better the longer you let it sit. Yay leftovers!

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Lamb & Chickpea ‘Tagine’

(Inspired by our previous recipe for Tangy Moroccan Meatballs and some additional internet browsing)
Ingredients: 
  • ~2 lb boneless lamb (shoulder, boneless leg), cubed
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 generous pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock (or lamb if you have access to it)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 can (16oz) chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • Fresh cilantro
Instructions: 
  1. Season all sides of the cubed meat generously with salt & pepper.
  2. Using a tagine if you have one, or a dutch oven if not (like us), heat the oil over medium heat on the stove top. Once hot, brown the meat on all sides and then remove to the side.
  3. Maintaining medium heat, add the onions, garlic, and carrots to the dish. Cook for ~5 minutes, until softened and becoming fragrant.
  4. Now stir in the tomato paste, tomato, and all of the spices except for the saffron. Cook for just a minute or two, stirring everything together.
  5. Now return the meat to the dish, along with the stock, lemon juice, and olives. Adjust the heat to bring to a light simmer with the lid on.
  6. Cook at that light simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is nice and tender.
  7. Remove the lid and increase heat to a more vigorous simmer. Add the chickpeas at this point. Cook for an additional 6-8 minutes with the lid off.
  8. Taste and add additional salt if desired (we added maybe a 1/2 tsp).
  9. Serve topped with torn cilantro and an extra squeeze of lemon if you’d like. Eat as a stew alone, though you could also put it atop couscous or rice.
Serves 4-6

Zoodles with Roasted Chickpeas

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Have all you food-blog-readers out there heard of Yotam Ottolenghi? He’s an Israeli-born British chef who I absolutely love! He has restaurants in the UK, at least five cookbooks, a website full of traditional & inventive Middle Eastern recipes, and a weekly column in The Guardian. He also has one of the best, most gorgeous, most mouth-watering Instagram feeds to follow out there (@ottolenghi) – you probably want to start following him!

As your average American who doesn’t dine out in London often or subscribe to The Guardian, I hadn’t heard of Yotam Ottolenghi until a few years ago when my sister gave me one of his cookbooks for Christmas. I think I’ve mentioned it a few times on here, and if I haven’t I should, as it’s one of my favorites. It’s called Jerusalem and was authored by Ottolenghi and another chef named Sami Tamimi. I love this cookbook for its delicious recipes, gorgeous photography, random stories interspersed with the recipes, and the fact that it features recipes based on both chef-authors’ heritages. Both grew up in Jerusalem, but Ottolenghi is of Israeli-Jewish heritage, while Tamimi is of Palestinian-Arab descent. Throughout the cookbook, they show the similarities and pervasiveness of recipes traditional to both groups. Maybe my favorite section of the cookbook frames the struggles of Jerusalem’s various residents like this:

“Alas, although Jerusalemites have so much in common, food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place. The dialogue between Jews and Arabs, and often among Jews themselves, is almost nonexistent. It is sad to note how little daily interaction there is between communities, with people sticking together in closed, homogenous groups. Food, however, seems to break down those boundaries on occasion… It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it – what have we got to lose? – to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will.”

I love the sentiment, and if anyone has the unifying hummus recipe, it’s probably these guys.

As I mentioned, Mr. Ottolenghi’s instagram feed is great, and I see posts from him (or his surrogates probably…) nearly every day. Said posts make me want to whip up his recipes, nearly every day. I must have seen something inspiring in recent days, because when confronted with my zoodles for tonight’s dinner, I felt an overwhelming desire to use some tahini. The tahini sauce I coated the zoodles with tonight is a scaled-down and warmed up version of the recipe in Jerusalem.

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Zoodles with Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients: 
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed, & dried
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tahini paste
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tbsp water
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Toss chickpeas in 1 tbsp olive oil + paprika, cumin, turmeric, and salt. Spread out on a cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Stir up once about halfway through cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare zoodles. See here if you need a little help with that!
  4. Next, warm the other 1 tbsp of olive oil into a pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for just about 3 minutes.
  5. Now lower the heat of the burner to a low. Wait a minute or two, then stir the tahini paste into the olive oil.
  6. Add the lemon juice and a turn or two of black pepper. Whisk together until well-combined. Add water by the tablespoon. (Don’t use all the water – or use more – if you’re happy with the consistency of the sauce.)
  7. Add the zoodles to the pan. Toss with the sauce. Cover and increase heat back to medium for 5 minutes.
  8. Portion out the zoodles into individual bowls. Top with the roasted chickpeas.
Serves 2.

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