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Lamb has become our “go-to” meat when company is coming for dinner.  It’s tasty, it’s local, and it’s a bit uncommon. In fact, most of our guests either have never had lamb, or are a bit wary. Sometimes they have bad memories of dried out lamb with gooey mint jelly, or maybe they’re thinking of how cute the little guys are. In every case, though, we win them over and they leave our table converts to the delights of eating properly cooked lamb.

Lamb can be grilled with great success, but this weekend I made a delicious stew, with Moroccan spices, apricots and garbanzo beans. Like any stew, the work is front-loaded. You do all your prep, get it cooking, and then go about your day, maybe getting ready for guests, while it bubbles away and comes together into sweet spicy goodness on your stove.

I like to serve this with couscous flavored with chopped mint, toasted slivered almonds, and grated lemon zest. Lightly steamed green beans provide a touch of contrast, and a full-bodied red wine like Shiraz or Malbec is a fine complement.

Note: Shoulder is a good cut for stew, but I’ve had success with leg of lamb, when shoulder wasn’t available.  A leg is usually close to five pounds, so double the recipe and invite a few more friends.

Serves 6.

Adapted from Bon Appétit

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 1/2 pounds trimmed lamb, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch chunks

4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

2 cups low-salt chicken broth

15 ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained

1 cup dried apricots (about 5 ounces), halved

15 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 cinnamon sticks

1 Tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

2 teaspoons (packed) grated lemon peel

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Add lamb and toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add lamb to skillet and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally and adding 2 more tablespoons oil to skillet between batches, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to another large bowl after each batch.

Add onion and tomato paste to drippings in skillet. Reduce heat to medium; sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add broth, garbanzo beans, apricots, tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, ginger, and lemon peel and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Return lamb to skillet and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until lamb is just tender, about 1 hour. Uncover and simmer until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer lamb and sauce to bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

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