Moroccan Lamb Stew, or cleaning out the fridge deliciously


We have a corner of our kitchen counter dedicated to the stash of winter squashes we get from our friend-farmers over at Tierra Vegetables. It’s a small part of the counter, but seeing as how it’s already a small kitchen, all space is valuable. So, when our winter squash inventory topped four — two acorn squash, one butternut and one delicata — I decided it was time to take matters in hand.

I decided it was also time to clean out the fridge a bit. Things are piling up in there, sadly. What with out-of-town company visiting Christmas and my birthday, you’d think I would have cooked up everything, but apparently I still had a large stash of carrots and leeks to use. Well, at least the leeks. The carrots would last if needed, but the leeks were getting a bit dry. And, while I was rooting around in the carrot bin (ha ha… see what I did there?) I found a smallish celeriac.

Someone on one of my forums mentioned making a tangine, and I thought to myself, Self, remember when you made that delicious Moroccan Stew years ago? With carrots, squash and tomatoes? Let’s do that. Only with the celeriac and leeks too. And so, I set about figuring out what other ingredients I would need, such as spices and and whatnot, and seeing what I had on hand.

Here’s my final pre-cooking set-up:

Look at those gorgeous carrots!

Ingredients:

butternut squash
carrots – three large
celeriac
potatoes – 4-6 medium
leeks – two (or onions)
garlic – 4-6 small cloves
ground lamb – 1 pound
chick peas – two cans
tomatoes – two cans
tumeric – 2 teaspoons
cumin – 2 teaspoons
cayenne – 1/2 teaspoon
coriander – 1/2 teaspoon
dried cranberries – 1 cup (or raisins)
almond slivers
couscous

+ + +

The first step was to sauté the leeks and brown the meat. Well, the first-first step was to get the meat defrosted and cut and clean the leeks.

It's important to wash them thoroughly.

The trick is to cut off the tops and the bottoms and then slice them lengthwise, so they can be separated more easily.

While the leeks were soaking, I started browning the ground lamb, so it would be hot and some of the fat would come out so I could use that to sauté the leeks. Which happened quite nicely.

Smells delicious!

Once there was enough fat in the bottom, I added the leeks, now drained.

Oh, starting to smell even more delicious!

While the leeks sautéed, I also added the spices, especially the coriander seeds and tumeric, and peeled garlic cloves. It’s important to let them simmer with the fat and the juices to activate their full flavor. Plus, it makes the whole house smell so wonderful!

I peeled and chopped the vegetables. First up was the squash. I used the vegetable peeler, and took off the thin skin of the butternut squash, and then cut it into cubes.

I cut the neck first.

Here's where the seeds are.

I just scooped the seeds  out with a spoon. Easy-peasy! Next, I chopped the carrots. I won’t bore you with photos of those. They’re just carrots. Also, I forgot to photograph them while cutting them.

I do, however, have photos of the celeriac. Before signing up for our CSA, I’d never heard of a celeriac. I had no idea that some varieties of celery make large roots that are edible.

Ugly, huh? Not improved by the blurry photo.

It’s important to cut away the tough outer skin. Not only is it ugly, but it’s quite tough close to the surface. I trim mine much like cutting the peel off a pineapple. Cut off the top and bottom and then slice down the sides.

Strong celery fragrance!

Once it’s all peeled, I cut it into cubes. The texture is similar to a parsnip or a potato.

A surprising favorite vegetable!

And, then I cut up the potatoes. I didn’t photograph that either, poorly or otherwise.

Yummy!

All the vegetables are ready. And so are the leeks. So time to add the beans and tomatoes, and cover the rest with water or stock.

Smells so delicious!

I let it cook for about an hour or so, until the vegetables were tender. About 10 minutes before I was ready to serve it, I added the cranberries. Cranberries?! In stew? Well, I only used the cranberries because I was out of golden raisins, which are preferred. The cranberries were sweet, and interesting. A nice last-minute impulse that turned out quite nicely.

At this point, I also boiled water and a bit of butter for the couscous, which cooks up pretty quickly.

When everything was ready, I spooned a bit of couscous into the bottom of each bowl, and covered it with with a hearty serving of stew, and then topped everything with almond slivers.

Doesn't this look scruptious!

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