One of the coolest things about food is that there are always new things to learn.
Though I have been referred to as a picky eater in the past, it turns out that, in some cases, it’s not my fault. There could be a genetic component that contributes to whether something tastes good to you. Recently I learned that cilantro tastes great to about 50% of the population and tastes like soap to the other 50%, including Julia Child. She detested cilantro, and so do I. I am one of the unfortunate soap tasters and so avoid eating or smelling cilantro at all cost.
Even though there is a substantial portion of humankind who will not eat cilantro, the pungent herb is a major ingredient in Mexican, Chinese, Indian, North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. If you do happen to be one of the lucky 50% that doesn’t think eating cilantro is the equivalent of drinking a bottle of Dove body wash, then feel free to try this warm and spicy dish from Sarah Bender. If you’d like to make it and leave off the soap shavings, that’s an option, too. Makes about 8 servings. Enjoy!
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups yellow onion, small dice
3 pounds lamb stew meat or boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
8 cups chicken stock, divided (may need up to 10 cups)
3 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cooked
2 1/2 cups pumpkin or Hubbard squash, large dice
1 1/2 cups carrot, large dice
1 1/2 cups fingerling potatoes or turnip, large dice
2 cups couscous, cooked
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hoshaf, to taste (pre-make according to recipe below)
Heat oil in Dutch oven over high heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and suet, stirring frequently, until translucent and tender (about 5 minutes).
Generously season the lamb with salt and pepper and add to onion. Continue sautéing, stirring frequently, until the lamb and onions are browned (about 10 minutes).
Add the ginger, turmeric and saffron and continue sautéing until they have a toasted aroma (about 1 minute). Add enough stock to cover the lamb. Bring liquid to a low boil; then reduce heat to low and cover Dutch oven. Simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring frequently, until lamb is nearly tender. Add salt and pepper, if needed.
Add chickpeas, pumpkin, carrots and potatoes or turnips and continue simmering until the lamb and vegetables are very tender (about 30 to 45 minutes).
In a separate saucepan, prepare couscous according to package directions.
Serve stew over couscous, topped with Hoshaf and cilantro.
24 Medium dried unsulfured apricots (about 6 oz.) coarsely chopped
4 C. Water
1/4 C. Evaporated cane or turbinado sugar
1. Soak apricots in water overnight, then transfer apricots in soaking liquid to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
2. Stir in sugar until dissolved, return to a low boil; then simmer until amount is reduced by half, about 45 minutes (this may vary; I often cook mine down for over an hour, likely the difference between unsulfured and sulfur-treated apricots).