Unlike a lot of folks in Columbus (who are still without electric and have lost entire freezers worth of food), I still have a very full freezer (I would have been so up a creek without a paddle if my electric had gone out). I’ve been trying to plan meals around the stuff in my freezer and pantries. Let me tell you, I’m counting my blessings and seeing the windstorm as a wakeup call – eat out of my stores at all cost, because I have just too much stuff that’s completely perishable in the case of power loss (plus, I’d like to make ice cream – it would help if I actually had enough room in my freezer to do so!)
This lamb shoulder came from the lamb Paul and my mother butchered at the Meet Your Meat workshop we did at 2Silos back in June. Pieces of cut up lamb quarter have been in the freezer since then, and this was the first cut we used. Yummy, even though we butchered the butchering a bit, so to speak. Ras el hanout is one of my favorite spice blends, and it works wonderfully in this dish – it’s both spicy and sweet at the same time. Not spicy in a hot kind of way, either. Just a nice combination that really stood out. I wasn’t crazy about the boxed Armenian rice we served with it, next time around, I’ll make some lentil rice or couscous from scratch to accompany it. I’m submitting this as part of the Deep Freeze Summer Challenge 2 blogging event hosted by Mele Cotte.
Mrouziya (Honey Spiced Lamb)
recipe courtesy Mimi’s Cyber Kitchen
4 lbs. lamb shoulder, cut into large chunks
3 tbsp. ras el hanout
2 to 3 cups water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. smen (aged butter) – or substitute 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. honey
3/4 c. raisins, plumped in warm water and drained
1 c. (5 oz) whole blanched almonds, toasted
Hobz Belboula or other crusty bread for serving
Preheat the oven to 325F. With your hands, thoroughly coat the meat with ras el hanout. Set the meat in a heavy cast-iron pan or an enameled casserole with a heavy lid. Add the water, the oil, smen, and honey. Cover tightly. Bake until the meat falls off the bones, 3 to 4 hours.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to an ovenproof dish and keep warm. Skim the fat from the sauce. Place the casserole over medium-high heat and add the raisins. Cook, stirring, until the sauce attains the consistency of maple syrup, 10 to 12 minutes. Return the meat to the sauce. Stir to coat and heat through.
Transfer meat to a shallow platter and garnish with the toasted almonds. Serve with extra sauce on the side, and warm bread.
I used a store-bought jar of ras el hanout, but if it’s not something that’s readily available in your area, you can also make it from ingredients you probably already have at home. Here’s a recipe for the spice blend, also found at Mimi’s Cyber Kitchen:
Ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
“There must be as many recipes for ras el hanout as there are spice vendors in Morocco. The name itself, which translates as “top (or head) of the shop,” refers to the best combination of spices the seller can provide. Si Brahim, our spice vendor in Azemmour, incorporates thirty-four spices, dried roots, so-called aphrodisiacs, and other mysterious and unusual items. I prefer to use Naima Lakhmar’s more easily prepared, less elaborate recipe. She toasts all her ras el hanout ingredients before grinding. You can usually find blade mace, dried ginger root, and dried turmeric root in Middle Eastern markets.”
Makes about 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon allspice berries or 1-1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 whole nutmeg or 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
20 threads Spanish saffron
2 teaspoons black peppercorns or 1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons blade mace* or ground mace
1 three-inch cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds or 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 two-inch pieced dried ginger or 2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1 two-inch piece dried turmeric or 1 teaspoon ground
If using whole spices, put all the ingredients in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat and toast, stirring constantly, until the mixture emits a pleasant aroma, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. (This first step is not necessary if using commercially ground spices.) Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, reduce the ingredients to a fine powder. Sift to remove fibrous elements. Place in a tightly sealed container and store in a cool, dark place, or in the freezer.
*Blade mace, also called mace blades, is the lacy, scarlet aril covering the nutmeg. It turns light brown as it dries. It is better know in its powdered form as ground mace.