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Tunisian Lamb Stew with Quince November 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in African, Braising, Entree, Lamb, Recipe.
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2 lbs. lamb shoulder, cubed
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tbsp. cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 oz. tomato paste (1 small can)
1 cinnamon stick
Small pinch of saffron
4 cups chicken stock
2 quinces
1 tbsp. honey

Time to Prepare: 3 hours + Overnight marinating.

Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 4+


1. Toast coriander, caraway, and cumin in a small dry pan until they begin to release their aromas. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Crush seeds with mortar and pestle.  Tear chiles into coin-sized pieces.  Combine seeds with garlic, chiles, paprika, and cayenne.  Season lamb with spice mix and 2 tbsp. olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Bring lamb to room temperature.  Using medium-high heat on the stovetop, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium dutch oven.  Brown the lamb cubes in batches until evenly browned, about 10 minutes per batch.  Set aside.

3. Cook onions with 1 tbsp. tomato paste in dutch oven until soft and golden.  Add a splash of chicken stock and deglaze the pot.  Add the remaining chicken stock and tomato paste to the pot, mix well, and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the cinnamon stick and saffron.  Add lamb, reduce to a low simmer, cover.  Cook for 90 minutes.  Check pot every 30 minutes, making sure that the liquid is not cooking off too quickly.  (Add water 1/2 cup at a time to replenish, as necessary.)

4. Wash quinces under cold water.  Slice into eighths and remove the cores.  Stir honey into simmering lamb stew.  Submerge quinces in stew liquid, cover, and cook for another hour.

5. Remove from heat.  Serve over cous cous.

This recipe is adapted from http://www.chow.com/recipes/11148.  Proportions and ingredients were adjusted to suit my whimsy.


Za’atar July 12, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in African, Recipe, Spices.
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4 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. dried thyme
4 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. dried sumac

Heat sesame seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic.  Let cool.  Combine sesame seeds with dried herbs and grind in a mortar and pestle.

Time to Prepare: 5 minutes

Difficulty: 1/10


Za’atar is a spice blend common in Northern Africa and the Middle East.  It is used in cooking and as a table condiment.

Berbere Seasoning April 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in African, Recipe, Spices.
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2 tsp. cumin seed
4 whole cloves
3/4 tsp. cardamom seed
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. whole allspice
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
Small dried chili peppers, to taste*
1 tsp. ginger powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric
2 1/2 tbsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste*

Toast whole spices in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning or excessive smoking.  Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.  Add dried chili peppers, stems removed, if desired.  Grind finely in a spice grinder (or mortar-and-pestle).  Remove larger pieces of cardamom husk, if any.

Transfer to small mixing bowl.  Add remaining powdered spices.  Cool to room temperature.  Store in sealed spice container for up to 6 months.

Time to prepare: 15 minutes

Difficulty: 1/10

Yields: Approximately one standard supermarket spice container’s worth of powdered seasoning.


Berbere seasoning is an essential component of many East African dishes.  Much like Indian Curry seasonings, every chef has their own preferred blend.  The specific ingredients and quantities can vary quite a bit.  You can’t really go wrong here, so feel free to adjust or omit ingredients to suit your fancy.

*Berbere is often spicy.  Add up to 10 chili peppers to the grind mix, and add up to 1 tbsp. cayenne pepper to the powders.  If you would rather err on the side of less spicy, omit these ingredients and tailor the spice level of the mixture later.