The stew is perfect spooned over a bowl of basmati rice and topped with yogurt and sauteed almonds. The almonds are so tasty we could hardly keep from eating them all before the stew was finished. This stew is guaranteed to warm you up on the coldest night!
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Photography and Styling: Ali Schmidt, Echo Hopkins, & Diana Yen
• For the stew:
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel
1 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into 2” cubes
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 cup pitted prunes
2 tablespoons ghee (or olive oil)
2 red onions, roughly diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small can tomato puree
1 butternut squash, skin off and diced into 1” cubes
4 cinnamon sticks
4 cups chicken broth
parsley, to garnish
yogurt, to garnish
• For the sautéed almonds:
30 almonds, blanched with skins off
2 tablespoon melted ghee (or butter)
1 teaspoon sea salt
To prepare the spices, toast the coriander, cumin, fennel and fenugreek spices in a dry fry pan over medium heat until they start to pop and smell fragrant, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Place all the spiced in a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder consistency. Add the chili flakes and paprika to the spice mixture.
Season the lamb shoulder with sea salt a few hours before cooking and soak the prunes in hot water 10 minutes before you start cooking. Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed saucepan large enough for the whole stew and brown the meat all over. Remove the meat from a pan and soften the onions in all the glorious lamb juices. When they begin to soften, add the garlic and spices and cook for 3 minutes more, or until the onions are pretty translucent. Add the tomato puree, lamb shoulder, prunes, squash, cinnamon sticks and broth. Over a high heat, bring the stew to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Let it simmer until the meat becomes tender, about 2 hours. Lift off the lid and continue to cook for 30 more minutes, or until the sauce is a thick consistency.
In a skillet, toss the almonds with the butter and salt and sauté over medium heat until golden-brown, about 10-12 minutes.
Serve the lamb stew over rice and finish with parsley, a dollop of yogurt and scattering of almonds.
• For the flatbread:
1 cup room temperature water
1 (1/4-ounce package) active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
Zaatar topping (recipe follows)
Combine the water, sugar, and yeast, and let it stand for about 10 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and work it in with your fingers. Make a well in the center, add the yeast and water mixture, and stir to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Form it into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and leave the dough to rise in a warm, draught-free place for about 1 hour until it doubles in size.
Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 400°F
Knead the dough briefly and divide it into 8 balls. Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and let stand for about 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball of dough and roll it into a circle 1/8-inch thick and about 7-8 inches in diameter. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of zaatar topping over each round, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.
Bake until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Serve warm right away or let cool on racks.
Makes about 1 cup
¼ cup sumac
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Grind the sesame seeds in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Store zaatar in an airtight container until ready to use.