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3 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large Spanish onions, diced
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large dice
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, and diced (reserve the fronds for garnish)
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup halved pitted dates
1/2 cup halved dried figs
1/2 cup halved dried apricots
2 heaping Tablespoons tomato paste
3 Tablespoons Moroccan Spice Mix
2 Tablespoons charnushka, optional
3 to 4 cups Essential Chicken Stock or water
Preheat a 6 1/2-quart slow cooker to Low. Place the lamb chunks on a sheet pan or cutting board. Pat the meat dry with paper towels; this will ensure even browning. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Brown the lamb pieces on all sides, in batches, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the lamb to the slow cooker insert. Brown the onions in batches in the sauté pan, scraping up any browned bits left behind from the lamb. Transfer the onions to the insert. Sauté the carrots and fennel until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Be careful not to let the garlic brown. Transfer the vegetables to the insert. Add the dates, figs, apricots, tomato paste, spice mix, and charnushka (if using) to the insert. Add stock to cover. Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours, until the lamb is tender and the sauce has thickened. Serve as is or with your choice of garnishes.
Moroccan Spice Mix
Two 2-inch cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
seeds from 1 cardamom pod
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar (optional)
Place the cinnamon, coriander, cumin, chili flakes, fenugreek, anise, and cardamom seeds in a spice grinder and process until completely ground. If using the brown sugar, transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the sugar. Store in a tightly covered container away from light for up to 3 months.
Fenugreek is an ancient seasoning that has been found in excavation sites in the Middle East dating back to the Bronze Age. Sephardic Jews frequently eat fenugreek on Rosh Hashanah, as the Hebrew name for fenugreek means the same as “to increase merits,” a common theme during the High Holidays. Both the leaves and seeds are commonly used in Middle Eastern and Indian recipes.
Charnushka, a slightly smoky, pungent spice, is also called black caraway, nigella, and kalonji. It is not, however, the same thing as black cumin. Charnushka is commonly found in Middle Eastern cuisines as well as Indian spice mixes such as garam masala. Look for it in well-stocked markets or specialty stores (see Sources, page 233).
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes by Laura Frankel, Agate Surrey, 2015.