Moroccan Beef Stew

After the last Moroccan dish I made, I simply had to have more. The approach to cooking the food is simple, the spices strong and seductive, and the end result is uniquely complex and delicious. Really, my first experience woke me up to a whole new genre of food that I had to explore. Today: a Moroccan Beef Stew.

Moroccan Beef Stew

Combining my new regional food interest with my newfound obsession with braising, this stew just made a lot of sense. Plus, this was an exciting opportunity for me to crack open the jar of preserved lemons that I had started so long ago–finally, after all of the suspense, I could discover what all the fuss was about. And you know what? They really are unlike anything else. Clearly lemons in appearance and flavor, but stronger, sweeter, and all grown up. Given how easy they are to make and how versatile they seem to be, I’d encourage everyone to start preserving a jar right away. The results are definitely worth it.

The flavor of this dish was interesting. The preserved lemon, sweet potato, dates, and golden raisins added a complicated sweet element, but this was tempered by the savory and smokey spices in the stew (and rubbed onto the beef). There was also a latent spiciness and the intensity of the preserved lemon that just sort of held all of these contradictory forces together for a really intriguing flavor. The beef was incredibly tender from a long, slow braise, and was well complimented by the firmness of the chickpeas. This was all suspended in a hearty tomato and broth-based stew.

This is also my latest entry into the Braisy Chain, hosted by Swirling Notions.

  • 2 lb beef, chuck/pot roast
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 shallot
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger
  • 1 habanero
  • 1 sweet potato
  • Ras el Hanout (a dry spice mixture, some example flavors to include in no particular amount)
    • smoked + hungarian/sweet paprika
    • pepper
    • salt
    • cayenne
    • chipotle
    • cinnamon
    • coriander
    • nutmeg
    • cumin
    • cloves
    • allspice
    • turmeric
  • 1 14 oz can whole tomatoes and juices
  • 1.33 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fennel seeds
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1 14 oz can chickpeas
  • 16 dates
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • pinch of saffron strands
  • ~1/4 cup parsley
  • ~1/4 cup cilantro

Gather and prepare the fresh ingredients

Begin by prepping all of the fresh ingredients so that they’re ready later.

Peel the carrot and sweet potato, dicing the carrot up somewhat finely and the potato into roughly 1-2 inch cubes (the same size that you would cut the beef down to). Also finely dice the shallot and garlic. Peel the ginger and grate/finely mince it up as well. If you’re adding any peppers for heat (which I would certainly encourage! Next time, I’d use three or four rather than one, but your mileage may vary), carefully and finely dice these up, taking extra precautions so that you don’t accidentally wipe your eyes with pepper oils later on during the day. Yea, making that mistake never gets old.

Coarsely chop the parsley and cilantro as well as the raisins. Chop the pitted dates up a good bit smaller.

Dice and spice the beef

Now, onto the beef. Like with other stews, I think it makes a lot more sense to use a big, tough cut of beef rather than ground beef or a more expensive cut of steak, as after roughly 2 hours of braising, the cheap cut is just as tender, costs a lot less, tastes a lot stronger, and isn’t prone to breaking down into mush like some other cuts of beef might. So with your beef, trim off any excess fat (don’t worry about getting it all, just the very obvious, major stuff. Some fat is good!), and chop the beef down to 1-2 inch cubes, roughly the same size as the sweet potato from before.

In a separate bowl, mix the Ras el Hanout spices together. Don’t worry about exact amounts/proportions. Start with about 1/8-1/4 tsp of everything, give it a whiff, and adjust accordingly until it smells exciting to you. For me, I used a bit more of the paprikas and turmeric (since they’re not the strongest flavors and they provide a bit of nice color) as well as cinnamon and coriander for the dominant savory flavors. Go light on the cloves and allspice–a little goes a long way. Don’t worry about getting this mixture “right”–its what Ras el Hanout is all about!

Once your happy with the spices, coat the beef chunks with it and rub it all over, doing your best to coat all sides, using every last bit. Then, sprinkle some flour over the beef and rub that all over as well.

Brown the spice and flour coated beef chunks

Heat up a dutch oven (or this would be a great tagine candidate if you have one) and add some olive oil. Once hot, brown the beef in 2 or 3 batches (since crowding results in steaming, not browning), heating for about 3 minutes per side. The spices and the flour will give the beef a very sexy color and crust, not to mention a very exotic smelling kitchen.

With all of the beef browned, get it off of the heat and set it aside. Take this time to preheat the oven to 325?F.

Sauté the veggies for a bit and then the sweet potato

So now, on to the veggies. Heat some more oil if you need it, and sauté the shallots and carrots for about 8 minutes or so, and then throw in the garlic, ginger, and habanero, sautéing for an additional minute or two. Then, add the sweet potato and toss this with the sautéed veggies, continuing to cook all of this for about 5 minutes or so, softening up the potato a bit.

Add the broth, wine, tomatoes, and spices

Now, add in the broth, wine, and whole tomatoes (and juices), squeezing/crushing them as you add them into the mix. As this warms up, deglaze the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, and heat this up to a very active simmer. As it heats up, add the remaining dry spices (bay leaf, fennel seeds, cardamom pods, and star anise) and give things a stir.

Add the beef and stir before going into the oven

After about 5 minutes of active simmering and letting the liquid reduce, add in the browned beef. The beef should just barely be covered by liquid, but if there doesn’t seem to be enough liquid, add in some additional broth. Cover the dutch oven and transfer into the oven.

A preserved lemon

While you wait, revisit all of the remaining ingredients that we haven’t used yet. Crumble up the saffron strands and get the chickpeas ready (whether this means opening a can, cooking fresh, whatever). Dice the preserved lemon into small strips. Some say only use the peel, but to me, the entire thing is good (except for the seeds). Plus, if the preserved lemons were Meyer lemons, there’s no real pith to worry about since Meyers have such thin skins–its so thin that it practically doesn’t exist after the preservation process. Woo-hoo, more lemon flavor!

Late in the cooking, add the remaining items and stir: herbs, lemon, chickpeas, etc

After about an hour and 30 minutes, take the dutch oven out of the oven. It’s not done cooking yet, but now we can add those remaining ingredients (they wouldn’t have survived the entire cooking process if we put them in at the beginning). So add in everything that remains: fresh herbs, preserved lemon, chickpeas, dates, raisins, and saffron. Give things a gentle stir, cover things up again (but leave it slightly open so its not an airtight seal), and back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

Moroccan Beef Stew fresh out of the oven, smelling delicious and fork tender

Once time is up, the beef should be fork tender. Get this out of the oven, give things a gentle stir and start plating.

Moroccan Beef Stew

I started with a bed of jasmine rice and then spooned some of the stew on top. I also garnished with some strips of preserved lemon. Enjoy!

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32 Responses to “Moroccan Beef Stew”

  1. Kevin Says:

    The flavour combinations here sound really interesting. I will have to try it.

  2. RecipeGirl Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried anything at all before that was “Moroccan.” Will have to give this one a shot!

  3. Peter Says:

    Mike,

    I think the ras el hanout is the deal breaker here.

    All aboard…we’re going to Fez!

  4. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    Another wonderful use for your stash of preserved lemons! I just made two more quarts of lemons last night, so I’ll save this recipe until my lemons are ready.

  5. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy Says:

    Sounds and looks just wonderful! I love Moroccan food, but I rarely make it. I don’t know why that is. Oh well, I have a big jar of preserved lemons that I got at the farmers market, so I’d better get busy making this dish! 😉

  6. pam Says:

    That looks so rich and satisfying!!

  7. Nora Says:

    I’m glad to hear that your foray into the world of homemade preserved lemon has a happy ending :-)

  8. Pixie Says:

    Love Moroccan food! (and thank you so much for your well explained email, I am going to think about it again!)

  9. Meeta Says:

    WHile I am not a huge fan of raisins and dates in my stews I do like the look of this. Lovely!

  10. noble pig Says:

    Mike-

    That looks fab. The braising is the key with everything don’t you think?

    I just came across your site, I like it here, I think I’ll visit often.

  11. steamy kitchen Says:

    just used up all of my preserved lemons…need to make another batch!

  12. Hélène Says:

    I can smell it from here. I’m sure my family would love that meal.

  13. mike Says:

    Kevin — thanks! It definitely was a change from the norm

    RecipeGirl — thanks! I’ve only been turned on to Moroccan food recently and there’s definitely some awesome flavors there. I’d highly recommend it–either this, or probably still my favorite, the lemon and olive chicken.

    Peter — something about that spice mixture is just a wonderful thing. Thanks!

    Lydia — thanks, it was indeed! I’ll have to go scour the citrus stands around here–I want to restock but Meyer lemons are nowhere to be seen!

    Susan — Moroccan is still new and fun for me, and I was admittedly eager to play with the lemons! Hope it goes well! Thanks!

    Pam — thanks! It definitely hit the spot

    Nora — haha, as was I! I was very nervous when the day finally came to crack the jar open since i didn’t know what they should smell/taste like. My timid entry into the world of preserving things!

    Pixie — as I’ve only recently discovered, me too! Now that I think about it, I don’t think i’ve ever encountered a Moroccan restaurant before–I’d certainly love to try more than just my own cooking! Also, glad to regarding the email, I hope it helps whichever way you lean. :-)

    Meeta — thanks! I tend not to be much of a raisin fan in general and I will be very picky about when raisins are ok and when they’re not (e.g raisins in bread/bagels or other pastries are entirely unacceptable, lol!), so I can entirely sympathize!

    noble pig — thanks and welcome, glad to have you! :-) I’ve definitely become a fan of braising…it will be hard to get over this wintery approach now that things are warming up around here. But then again, if I’m making ice cream in the winter, I guess I can still braise in the summer…

    steamy — haha, just a public service announcement to those who have Meyer lemons available to them! 😉

    Helene — thanks! :-)

  14. Joy Says:

    Delicious. I love Moroccan food and I love slow cooked meat so this sounds ideal. I made a lamb tagine the other week (yet to post) and I could have been in Casablanca rather than grey old London!

  15. mike Says:

    Joy — welcome and thanks! Moroccan flavors definitely make slow cooked meat turn into something special. I’ll definitely be checking your blog for the lamb tagine–that sounds like it ought to be delicious. Thanks again for visiting, I hope to see you again!

  16. White On Rice Couple Says:

    It’s been so long since we’ve had Moroccan food! But we do love the currants that frequent the dishes. Your stew looks divine. We’ll save this one for future reference. Thanks!

  17. katie Says:

    Might I just say: WOW!
    So many flavors, and it looks so good!
    When you get an obsession you certainly know how to work it…
    Makes me want to go to Morocco! (plus I hear the shopping is good…)

  18. Terry B Says:

    Mike—This sounds excellent! I had toyed with adding vegetables to my Moroccan braised beef to turn it into a stew, but went with just the meat, golden raisins and spices instead. The chickpeas are a perfect choice here, of course. I’ve lately been looking for more ways to use them. Thanks for this one!

  19. mike Says:

    White — I wish I could find currants, this is definitely the place for them. And thanks!

    katie — haha, I do get a little into it. A trip to Morocco definitely sounds nice right about now…actually, a trip anywhere sounds nice! lol. Thanks! :-)

  20. Laurie Constantino Says:

    This is absolutely wonderful Mike – I like every single thing about it. Thanks for a great recipe!

  21. Swirling Notions » The Last of the Braisy Chain Roundups Says:

    […] Beef StewMike from Mike’s Table brings us a sublime-looking Moroccan Beef Stew with all the savory-sweet complexities that […]

  22. swirlingnotions Says:

    This looks fantastic, Mike! And I’m so glad it initiated you into the world of preserved lemons. They’re to die for. I love them chopped in pasta with really good olive oil, really good olive-oil poached or preserved tuna and some chopped olives. Yum . . .

    Thanks for joining the Braisy Chain again, Mike. The roundup is up!

  23. mike Says:

    Laurie — thanks! Glad you enjoyed it :-)

    swirling — thanks! I’m looking forward to finding more places to use them now that I have them as they really are something fun and different. Fish sounds like a good next place to turn. And thanks again for hosting BC!

  24. arfi Says:

    Mike, I’d love to sit there and enjoy the dish. Looks delicious!

  25. Pauline Says:

    That looks delicious! I have never tried Moroccan food, but would love to and also to cook it…..would be a challenge. :)

    How many servings does this recipe make?

    Pauline

  26. Bill Says:

    I just did this in my pressure cooker and it is fantastic. The explosion of flavors is quite impressive.

    Basically, I adapted it by browning the meat, and sauteing the shallot, garlic and ginger. Deglazed with the wine, then added the rest of the ingredients – I used fresh tomatoes and upped the broth a bit – holding back the sweet potato and the chick peas. Cooked for 8 minutes.

    While it cooked, I sauteed the sweet potato in a bit of olive oil. After the 8 minutes, I quick released the cooker, added the sweet potato and chick peas, and cooked an additional 10 minutes with a natural release. I added a tbsp of cornstarch in 1/3 cup of water to thicken it. Wow!! I’m on my third helping.

    Since I’m in Santa Fe, the cook times are 20% longer than they would be at sea level. Oh, and I used local green chili instead of the habanero.

  27. tedew Says:

    This is the type of cooking I enjoy … hearty, fragrant and complex.
    I did not have all the ingredients on hand but followed the recipe procedure for coating and browning the beef and basically for the rest. The changes I made were to add a variety of pre-soaked and slightly cooked beans (kidney, soldier and cattle) at the start and some honey and baked slowly at 275 degrees in a Le Creuset oval dutch oven. I added some dried apricots after 1 1/2 hours and then the raisins and dates after 2 1/2 hours; turned the heat down to 250 degrees and just let it go for about another hour and everything turned out great. I did not chop the raisins and basically just quartered the apricots and dates.
    For the Ras el Hanout I used everything listed except the chipotle taking Mike’s advice to increase the same four he did. I would probably use more of everything the next time. I also did not have the fennel, cardamom, anise, habanero, parsley, cilantro or preserved lemon but cannot wait to include those the next time for what I know they will add. I also did not have any saffron but really cannot figure out what that expensive spice would add to this without being lost in the crowd.
    I will definitely be treating this at my next dinner party.

  28. Elizabeth Says:

    Hey Mike, this was one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten and I couldn’t believe I made it! Thanks. e.

  29. Morocco « Around the world in 80 meals Says:

    […] Morocco is one of the great food melting pots on the planet, mixing European, African and Middle Eastern flavours.   The flavours are rich and blend exotic spices with fruit and rich meats.   Thus, we’re going for Moroccan Beef Stew borrowed from Mike’s Table. […]

  30. Egyptian Says:

    This is an absolutely amazing recipe! I’ve made it at least 3 times and each time it’s a little different (since I don’t measure out the spices)! Thank you so much for sharing. This really encourages me to try out other recipes on your site :)

  31. Amanda Says:

    How would someone adapt this to a crockpot?

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