Moroccan beef stew

This is a beef stew recipe for shaking off the winter and letting a little bit of spring emerge. It’s still cold, and I still am wanting relatively hearty meals, but I’m craving bright spring flavors. Things like lemon, asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries. The addition of lemon and cilantro to a winter stew brighten the flavor and move us towards that green landscape we’re so desperately craving at this point in the year.

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These are not the traditional spices that I use in my beef stew, as cinnamon and ginger are flavors I’m more likely to use in sweet, rather than savory food. But this combination is traditional to Moroccan dishes, and it works beautifully. The warmth of these spices is such a nice contrast against the brightness of the lemon. This is comforting stew, but yet it has a little bit of the unexpected.

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The pasta in this dish is completely optional. It really feels like quite a hearty meal, but it’s a bit odd to eat stew with both a fork and spoon. The chickpeas, however, are a requirement. The stew is unfamiliar in so many ways (chickpeas, cinnamon, ginger, lemon & cilantro) and yet ordinary in others (beef, onions, carrots, garlic). It feels modern to me. It’s a bit hard to describe what all of those different flavors taste like, other than to say it’s delicious, and it’s one my whole family will eat. That’s a win in my book.

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Moroccan beef stew

recipe adapted Dana Jacobi

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-1¼ pounds stew meat, cut into cubes
coarse kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sweet paprika
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
6 cups beef or chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup dried spaghetti, broken into 1-inch pieces (optional)
chopped cilantro, for garnish
2 large lemons, 1 for juice, and 1 cut into wedges for garnish

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Sauté the beef in a small drizzle of olive oil, turning occasionally until brown on all sides. Remove from pot. Add another drizzle of olive oil and sauté the onions. Add the spices and continue to cook onions until they’re soft and translucent. Add the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth, then carrots. Return beef to the pot and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Add drained chickpeas and the juice of 1 lemon. Cook for a few minutes more. Add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

If you decide to serve with spaghetti and you know you’ll be saving some of the stew for leftovers, I recommend cooking the spaghetti separately in salted boiling water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, to prevent it from sticking together. If you won’t be using all of your cooked spaghetti immediately, drizzle with a bit of olive oil for later use.

To serve, place a small amount of spaghetti in each bowl and ladle stew over the top. Top with chopped cilantro and a lemon wedge.

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