My starting point for this dish was simple: I wanted something kind of middle eastern in flavor, and I wanted lamb. Armed with pomegranate, apricot, and a bunch of spices, I figured I would be off to a great start for something that would be different from the usual dinner. I was thrilled with the results as this was a really tasty, full-bodied, seductively spiced stew, but not at all like how I originally envisioned it.
I was disappointed that, despite using 3 cups of pomegranate juice, the pomegranate flavor was nowhere to be found in the final dish. On the other end of the spectrum, I was also a bit dissatisfied with the apricots–they tasted great, but were too sharp and loud flavor-wise relative to the rest of the stew and seemed out of place. On my next attempt, I would try to incorporate a few other changes: add pomegranate molasses to the stew roughly 20 minutes before its finished (for some more distinct pomegranate flavor) and garnish the final dish with actual pomegranate. I would also dice the apricot smaller and cook them longer to mute them a bit since I do like the brightness they bring to the stew–they just need to be toned down a little. So a perfect start? No. Worth doing again with some refinement? Definitely. Plus, its lamb stew for crying out loud–that’s always worth having!
- ~3-4 lbs lamb shank (+ bones if you have them)
- Spice Rub
- small pinch of asafoetida
- celery seed
- caraway seed
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 1 black cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 leek
- 1 carrot
- 3 peppers (I had anaheim, jalapeño, serrano)
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 inch knob ginger
- ~3 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 preserved lemon
- 6 apricots
- generous handful cilantro leaves
- slightly less generous handful of parsley
Begin by cubing the lamb shank and removing any bones (save them though if you have them). Then, mix the spice rub in a bowl and coat the lamb pieces with it before browning in a large pot, roughly 2 minutes per side. Work in batches to prevent crowding your pot. Brown the bones, too, if you’ve got them. Set this aside to drain any excess fat.
Now, replenish the pot with a bit of oil if things are looking dry. Add both kinds of cardamom pods and bay leaf to the oil for a minute. Then, add the finely minced leek, carrot, and peppers to the pot, sautéing for roughly 10 minutes. Add the finely minced garlic and ginger for a minute more and then deglaze the pot with pomegranate juice.
Raise to a boil and then return the lamb pieces to the pot. Cover and transfer to a 350°F oven for 2.5 hours.
Towards the end of cooking, you should prepare the final mix-ins: stone and quarter the apricots and dice the preserved lemon peel into thin strips. Reserve the chopped herbs.
Once time is up, skim off any fat that has accumulated on the surface of the pot (there will probably be a good bit). Remove any bones and whole spices now as well.
Finally, add the preserved lemon, apricots, and herbs. Return this to the oven for 20-30 minutes more, uncovered.
And now, the stew is done. I chose to serve mine over cous cous (which is always simple to prepare in a pinch), but rice or any other absorbent side dish would work well. I garnished with pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, and a bit more cilantro. Enjoy!