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