Tag Archives: lamb

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

When I was a kid and got a present I would immediately use it, even if that meant wearing a parka in July or playing with my ice cream stand at Christmas.  I haven’t grown up all that much because when my brand new slow cooker arrived in the mail it was less than 24 hours before I broke that baby in.  My friend Tommy had convinced me to upgrade from my old school crock pot to one with a digital timer.  After some research I settled on the Set n’ Forget from Hamilton Beach and have been really happy with it so far.  The best thing about having the timer is that I put the lamb tagine in before I went to work and set it for 8 hours – once it hits the proscribed time the slow cooker switches to a warming mode.  I was worried that the food would be overcooked and dry but it was perfect.  I always wondered how people were cooking in their slow cooker and working a full work day but now I can be one of those people!  Browning the lamb at 7:00am wasn’t the highlight of my day but coming home to an almost complete meal was – I served this dish alongside some couscous which only requires boiling water.  Viola, a dinner party!

A tagine is actually an earthenware cooking vessel from Northern Africa (and the name of dishes made in it).  Its conical shape helps seal in moisture to braise chicken or lamb dishes just like its more modern slow cooker friend.  I would love to have this hand-painted one from Tunisia, maybe not to cook in but to use as a serving dish, but tagines are pretty large for a single use item!  So the slow cooker it is, just make sure to serve it up in a pretty dish before devouring it.  I included some traditional Northern African flavors like the olives and preserved lemons to give this dish a lot of contrasting flavors.  If you have never cooked with preserved lemons before this is a great way to start – you can buy them in a jar or make them yourself (I did once and went back to buying them as I couldn’t tell the difference).  Because they are processed in salt the lemon rind becomes edible and has a lovely smooth flavor unlike the sharp citrus bite of fresh lemons.  They last forever in the fridge and really punch up the slow cooked lamb.  I like the Les Moulins Mahjoub brand but any will do.  This dish also freezes really nice so make up a big batch this weekend and squirrel some away for a rainy day.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine 

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lamb leg, trimmed and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces on a diagonal
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup green pitted olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Put the flour in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.  Working in batches (should take 2 to 3 max) dredge (i.e. toss the meat in the flour and then shake off the excess) the lamb cubes adding them to the hot oil.  Only do enough that can fit in the pan.  Brown the pieces all over, cooking a couple of minutes on each side, before adding them to the slow cooker.

Add more oil if necessary to brown all the batches of lamb.  Then add the onion, carrot and garlic to the skillet, lowering the heat to medium if necessary to keep from burning.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften, then add all of the spices along with salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring until all the veggies are combined with the spices.

Pour in the port and use it to deglaze the pan (i.e. get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan).  Dump everything in the skillet in to the slow cooker on top of the lamb.  Add a 1/2 cup of water and stir everything together.

Set for 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high.  Once it has finished cooking you can refrigerate for several days or freeze for several months.  Right before serving (or while you are reheating it) stir in the chopped preserved lemon, raisins and olives, stirring to combine.  Let those ingredients heat through and then serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

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Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos

I hope you all saw my post on Thursday about the fantastic new Mexican resturant in DC, Espita Mezcaleria.  Everything I ate there was delicious but the lamb barbacoa tacos were out of this world.  Before my second bite I told Patrick I needed to figure out how to make these at home.  I have had lamb tacos before but usually they consist of grilled lamb that has been thinly sliced or ground lamb served in hard shells.  The Espita tacos had richly sauced braised lamb folded into their homemade tortillas.  A slow cooker seemed like the best way to ensure that the lamb got fall-apart tender.  Lamb shoulder would be perfect for this but it can be difficult to find most of the year, whereas lamb leg you can pretty much always  track down.  I bought my lamb boneless and pre-butterflied because that’s all they had at the store but I promise it’s really easy to do and a good skill to have.

It really doesn’t have to be perfect at all since it’s all going into the slow cooker – if you are butterflying for the grill you want to make sure the meat is even thickness.  This recipe is a little more fussy than most of my slow cooker recipes – you want a decent amount of liquid to cook the lamb in but then you should cook it down to help concentrate the flavor.  If I really had all day I would have cooked all of the liquid down to the 1 1/2 cups needed but the house smelled too good to wait.  The lamb at Espita had a nice smokey, spicy sauce on it so I thought chipoltes were in order.  I used the dried peppers in the cooking process and then chipoltes in adobo to flavor the sauce.  If you cannot find dried chiptoltes in the store, any dried chili pepper will do.  As for the chipolte puree, I just take a can of the chipoltes in adobo (which you know about from here) and puree it in the food processor.  I use what I need and then keep the rest in the fridge for whenever I want to add a little kick (it will last indefinitely because of the vinegar content).  If you don’t want to do that just take one or two of the chipoltes, smash it with a fork and add them to the lamb along with some of the adobo sauce.  I served the tacos with chopped raw onion, some purple cabbage and a squeeze of lime.  I also added some of my Habanero Hot Sauce which I will be posting on Tuesday (yowza it’s hot!).  This would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo celebrations, just make it this weekend, pop it in the freezer and then defrost for next weekend!

Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos 

  • 3 dried chipolte peppers, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 gloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons chipolte puree (a can of chipoltes in adobo pureed)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the dried chilis and toast them in the dry pan for 3 or 4 minutes, flipping once, until they darken a bit and you can smell the chili.  Remove and put into the slow cooker.  Add the oil to the pan and salt and pepper the lamb while you wait for the oil to heat.  Once the oil is hot add the lamb to the pan and brown on one side without disturbing it for 5 minutes.

Flip and cook for 5 minutes more until both sides are nice and brown.  Remove the lamb from the pan and add to the slow cooker.  There should be enough fat from the lamb and the oil in the pan but if not add a touch more canola oil   Add the onions to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or two and then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander and salt and pepper.

Cook for another 2 minutes until the onions are softened.  Add the can of tomatoes and use the liquid to deglaze the pan of any brown bits stuck on the bottom.  Add the contents of the pan into the slow cooker with the lamb and chipoltes.  Add beef stock so the liquid comes up at least three-quarters of the way up the lamb (you may not need all 3 cups).  Turn on the slow cooker to low and cook for 5 to 6 hours.

Carefully pull out the lamb and place it on a cutting board to cool (it’s ok if it falls apart a bit as you do this as you are just going to shred it anyway).  I used a large spatula and a wooden spoon to get it out of there.  Pull out the dried chipoltes and toss.  Pour the rest of the content of the slow cooker and its liquid into a blender or  food processor (carefully!) and blend until smooth.  Transfer one and a half cups of the puree to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer over low for 30 minutes until the liquid has thickened a bit, stir in desired amount of chipolte puree.

While the sauce simmers shred the meat once its cool enough to handle, it should fall apart very easily.  Once the sauce it done combine it with the shredded lamb.  You can serve right away or store in the fridge for several days or the freezer for several months.

Spicy Lamb Burgers

For those of you that live in D.C. you all remember the epic snow storm of 2012, lovingly known as Snowmageddon.  As a Boston girl I poo pooed the weather reports for weeks as I had seen the chicken little sky is falling routine time and time again in Washington only to end up with an inch of slush.  I was wrong.  It was an epic storm that will shape the lives of Washingtonians for decades (for those Bostonian readers this is ala the Blizzard of ’76).  Patrick and I hadn’t been dating long, so it was a tough proposition to be snowed in with someone for two weeks – especially after a couple of days when he realized we had run out of food!  Thankfully many Capitol Hill restaurants remained open through the whole ordeal, sending plows to their employee’s houses just so they could make it in, and welcoming snow-covered customers who piled wet mittens and scarfs on their floors.  Our savior was Cava Mezze on Barracks Row.  Now a local chain, back then it was a pretty small family run operation with several standout dishes.  Their happy hour deal on spicy lamb sliders and greek wine was all that stood between us and starvation (and probably a quick break up!).  Years later it is still my favorite thing on their menu and whenever I eat one I am taken back the memories of that crazy winter.

There are lots of lamb burger recipes out there so I played around with a bunch until I found something pretty close to the version at Cava’s.  Previously I used chopped fresh chili peppers to give it some heat but then realized foolishly that since one of their staple dishes is fresh harrissa paste served with pita, that the spice in the burger was likely coming from that same hot chili pepper paste mixed in with the ground lamb.  There are lots of recipes for harissa online but I usually buy mine in tubes or small cans at mediterranean markets.  Also Whole Foods started carrying Cava’s version which is outstanding.  If you cannot find it, any kind of pepper paste would work or a chopped jalapeno would work in a pinch.

Also I found that my other attempts using egg and other binders left a burger that resulted in a big mess on the grill.  These patties hold together much better though fair warning, lamb is a “softer” meat so can lead to less than instagram worthy burgers.  One tip is to form the burgers and then let them chill for at least an hour in the fridge before grilling them  This helps them hold together better.  Also a good trick for burgers with mix ins like this one – if you aren’t going to eat all 4 right away still go ahead and make the whole recipe.  Once you have formed the burgers take the patties you are not going to use and put them on a plate or baking sheet.  Place in the freezer for 2 hours – the patty will harden and then you can throw it into a freezer bag for up to 6 months.  When you want to make the burgers again just defrost over night on a plate and you will have a premixed, preformed burger all ready for the grill.  I serve mine on toasted english muffins, a terrific vessel for all burgers, along with my yogurt sauce, arugula and red onion.  These burgers would be great for a family BBQ, a nice alternative to the standard fare, or as we often do for a quick weeknight dinner paired with a large greek salad.  These would be a great addition to your 4th of July menu (as will Friday’s recipe).

Spicy Lamb Burgers 

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion – 1/2 chopped and 1/2 sliced to top the burgers
  • 3 cloves of garlic – 2 minced for the burgers and 1 minced for the yogurt sauce
  • 5 tablespoons chopped mint, divided – 2 tablespoons for the burgers and 3 for the yogurt sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons harissa (more if you like it spicier)
  • 5 to 6 ounces non-fat greek yogurt
  • 4 english muffins or hamburger buns
  • arugula or lettuce for topping

In a small pan heat the olive oil over medium heat then cook the chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  In a large bowl add lamb, chopped mint, the cooled onion and garlic mixture, harissa paste and salt and pepper.  Mix with your hands until just combined (don’t over work the meat or it will become tough).  Divide the meat into 4 and form patties.  If you have time chill for 1 hour in the fridge to make a firmer patty.

Heat grill on high and grill for 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile mix the remaining garlic clove with the remaining 3 tablespoons of chopped mint, yogurt and salt and pepper to make the yogurt sauce.  Toast the english muffins while you let the burgers rest.

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