Monday, May 21, 2012

Great Moroccan Lamb Dish...and Easy!

In Moroccan cuisine, the word “tajine” refers both to a cooking vessel, and to the stew cooked in it. The vessels are typically made from earthenware, with a domed top so the cooking vapors will condense on the inside and fall back into the dish. It simply has to be seasoned by first soaking in water, then filling with water and heating in the oven.  Then the unglazed areas are rubbed with a little olive oil and it's ready to go!
                I’d been wanting one for a while, and finally my husband got me one as a gift. Quite lovely, it can go right onto the stove top with a diffuser, and I’ve used it several times. I love the way it looks on the table, and in fact have it sitting on a shelf in the kitchen when I'm not using it, so all my friends can admire and covet it.
                Recently we had out of town guests coming and I wanted something interesting that wouldn’t take a lot of time.  Going through my files, I found one for a lamb meatball tajine that had those qualities.
                I served it with rice, but a more typical side dish would be couscous. You can find a pre-seasoned mix for that in any grocery, and it would cut down on prep time, since it’s ready in about five minutes. With a salad and some crusty bread for sopping up the juices, you can have a great meal for your guests in about 45 minutes.

Moroccan Lamb Meatball Tajine

2 lbs. ground lamb
2 large onions, very finely chopped, divided
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp. peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and veins removed, very finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, finely chopped
Juice and finely grated zest of two large lemons
2 cups beef stock
2 lemons, washed and quartered, for garnish
Additional cilantro leaves, for garnish.

                Preheat oven to 350o. Mix the lamb, half the onion and remaining meatball ingredients together well.  Form into 1” balls and place in one layer on a foil-lined baking pan. Bake for about 15 minutes. Reserve.
                Meanwhile, in your cooking pan of choice, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the remaining onion, the ginger and the jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and the beef stock.  Season lightly with salt. Add the meatballs carefully, with any juices that have accumulated on the baking pan. Bring just barely to a simmer.  Lower the heat a bit, cover and cook for about 15 minutes.  Serve garnished with cilantro and lemon quarters. Serves 6 to 8.

NOTE #1:  If you don’t have a tajine (and most people probably don’t), a heavy lidded Dutch oven would work equally well.

Note #2: If you like a spicier dish, leave the seeds and veins in the pepper. If you have an asbestos palate, use two or more jalapeño peppers.

 Note #3: This reheats beautifully so if you like, you can make it a day ahead.
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