Vary this recipe as you will, using beef or chicken instead of lamb and adding or subtracting vegetables. The heat level is also optional: harissa or another hot sauce can be used more copiously if you like spicy food or left out altogether if you want a milder stew. The easiest thing is to stir in just a touch of fiery hot sauce and let your guests add more if they wish.
3 pounds boneless lean lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
1-1/2 cups finely diced onions
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp paprika
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
About 1 tsp salt
About 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of saffron (optional)
1 tsp dried mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems (save the leaves for garnish)
3 cups coarsely chopped onions
4 cups water
3 carrots, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzos), homemade or canned
3 cups 2-inch chunks peeled winter squash, such as butternut or acorn
2 cups 1-inch chunks peeled turnip
1 cup raisins (optional)
Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp Harissa, or other hot sauce, or to taste (optional)
2 cups 2-inch zucchini pieces
2 cups 1-1/2-inch chunks crookneck squash or yellow zucchini
2 to 3 cups instant couscous
Combine the lamb, onions, garlic, spices, saffron, mint, and cilantro stems in a large, heavy pot, Dutch oven, or flame-proof tagine. Add the water and bring to a boil, adding more water if necessary to cover lamb. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until the lamb is tender.
Add the carrots, chickpeas, winter squash, turnips, and the optional raisins, cinnamon, and harissa or other hot sauce to the pot, making sure they are covered with liquid (add more water if needed), and cook, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the carrots and squash are tender. Taste for more harrisa or hot sauce and salt and pepper.
Almost all the couscous available in the United States is already cooked or instant. Once you've added the squash to the stew, cook the couscous following the directions on the box. Spoon the couscous into a large, shallow serving bowl and ladle the stew over it. Pass harissa or another hot sauce at the table.
Yield: Serves 8, with leftovers
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