March 12, 2014

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Photo by Judith Hausman

Stew is good for you!

Winter is still among us in the New York’s Hudson Valley where I live. The beets and potatoes at the farmers markets are getting a little wrinkled, but a few greens and fresh herbs, grown slowly under snow-dusted hoop houses, are beginning to show up. I recently scored a beautiful bunch of dill. 

A last winter squash from my CSA is holding up well, so I gave it a Moroccan gilding in a long braising with local lamb shanks and more vegetables. You’ll need one per person unless they are huge. Like most braises, it’s actually better the next day and holding it also allows you to easily spoon off excessive fat from the surface. If you like a soupier stew, add more broth or some water when you re-heat it to serve.

Warm North African spicing and a lift of citrus just do wonders for pumpkin, chunks of sweet parsnip, carrots and plump chickpeas (home cooked or canned). Use white beans if you prefer and a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes to supply some of the liquid if you like. Chicken thighs are a fine substitute for the lamb shanks, or create a vegetarian version. Don’t hold back on the spices, and hunt down some preserved lemon and fresh cilantro for the final garnishes. Rice or couscous is a nice accompaniment.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1 32-ounce box chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 4 cups pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or hot pepper flakes
  • 2 cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice 
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
PREPARATION

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy pot, and brown the lamb shanks well. Remove from pot, and add onions and garlic. Cook until softened. 

Add spices to the onion-garlic mix, and then return the shanks to the pot with about half the box of broth. Cook on low heat for at least an hour, turning the shanks over in the liquid occasionally and testing until the lamb is tender. 

Add in the other vegetables and the rest of the broth. Cook for about another 45 minutes until the vegetables soften. Add the chickpeas and lime or lemon juice, and adjust the seasoning. 

Sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving. Serve with minced preserved lemon. 

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