Lamb Stew with Almonds and Apricots

Following this recipe from the NY Times the other day, I made a sweet lamb stew with honey, almonds, and apricots. The stew is a traditional lamb tagine called Mrouzia, prepared throughout North Africa during Ramadan. I had several problems with the NY Times recipe, the first being that although the recipe calls for 3 lbs of lamb, if you look at the video instructions on the NY Times site, the chef is clearly using at least 4 lbs of lamb and is using 6 cups of stock to go with it. I used only 2 lbs of lamb, reduced the stock required by a third, and it still took way too long to reduce to the proper consistency. The stew is also very sweet. Apparently a Mrouzia uses a lot of honey as a way to help preserve the meat in places without refrigeration. But, that’s not a problem here, and all that honey just makes it seem unbalanced. Finally, I messed up and used regular whole raw almonds instead of blanched almonds (without skins). I don’t think it makes much of a difference, but every recipe I checked calls for blanched almonds.

The stew was actually terrific, especially after I balanced the sweetness a little with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. It is highly flavorful and very rich. What follows are the proportions of ingredients that I would use the next time I make this stew – less stock, a lot less honey and a little lemon to balance the sweetness.

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Lamb Stew with Almonds and Apricots Recipe

  • Yield: Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. lamb shoulder or neck, trimmed of fat and cut into 2 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cups chicken stock or water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried apricots, roughly chopped, or raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups almonds, whole and blanched
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1-2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Method

lamb-almond-apricots-1.jpg
1 In a bowl combine the ginger, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and water and mix well. Add the meat and rub in the paste, coating evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2 In a Dutch oven or other heavy, lidded pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and cinnamon sticks and cook until the onions are translucent and the mixture is fragrant.

lamb-almond-apricots-2.jpg lamb-almond-apricots-3.jpg

3 Add the marinated meat (including the marinade) to the pot and then the chicken stock. Bring the stock to a boil, and skim off any scum that appears.

lamb-almond-apricots-4.jpg
4 Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring from time to time. Add water if the pot becomes too dry. Stew until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours, more if needed.

5 Add the apricots, almonds, honey, and carrots and simmer, uncovered, stirring often to prevent scorching, until the meat is very soft and almost falling apart, about 30 minutes longer. The sauce should reduce to a syrupy glaze. At this point taste and add lemon juice to desired level. The lemon juice brings some balance to the sweetness from the honey and apricots.

Note: this recipe can be prepared in advance up to this point. Allow to cool, refrigerate and serve within a couple of days.

6 Stir in the chopped parsley and transfer to a warmed serving dish. Serve immediately with couscous or rice.

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Links:
Original recipe from the NY Times - make sure to view the video in the right hand column.
A North African Sweet Lamb Mrouzia recipe
Epicurious take on this recipe
Yet another honeyed lamb recipe

10 Comments

  1. David L.

    I love these kinds of recipes, tagines and stews, which are great for those of us who have no idea what to do with a slab o’ meat. Just cut it up and cook it for a long, long time.

  2. Marti

    Hi there,

    I’ve been looking at your blog for a couple of months now and it’s always faboo!

    Quick question about this recipe: Do you think it would work as well using olive oil instead of butter and vegetable stock instead of chicken?

    Thanks!

  3. Sally

    This looks absolutely delicious, Im not sure if its even more appetising because I happen to be starving! Off to make my boring old tin of soup, its time I got more adventurous, but only in the Kitchen!

    :)

  4. Susan

    This looks so yummy! I’m thinking of trying it in a slow cooker for this weekend — any thoughts or tips?

  5. Candice Dueck

    Tried this for dinner tonight and it turned out great! Just be warned that it takes a long time to make and the suggestion to cut back on the honey is worth it – the stew was still very sweet even though I used 1/2 a lemon to temper the honey.
    Thanks Elise!

  6. Sassy J

    I just found your website and LOVE IT! As an amatuer cook-aholic, I’ve already printed many yummy recipes to make.

    A little note–I love these lamb stews with Morrocan spices, etc. in the winter–and have some crazy combo of ingredients of picking and chosing from several recipes. I typically add in chick peas–and in terms of the extra stock in the NY Times recipe–I throw in couscous at the end–which seems to sop up that extra stock with a perfect compliment to the dish. Freezes well too.

  7. Jen C

    I just made this for company last night… heavenly. So easy for such a flavorful and complex taste. One note is that I found it took about an hour cooking with the lid off for the sauce to reduce enough. But boy was it worth the wait. Everyone cleaned their plates! Thanks, Elise!

  8. Shannan

    Very nice site. Your comments about your parents made me adore them. Made this last night. Used 3 lbs. lamb, but unsure if you really meant 2 (in comments and the picture). I really enjoyed the recipe combo of ingredients. Next time I might up the liquid and lower the amount of almonds. I kept bumping into them and it was a little distracting. Maybe I will grind the almonds into a paste and add it to the extra liq. I might add prunes too. Anyway, thank you. Next… chocolate and zucchini cake. YUM! (found you via a Chowhound member).

  9. Katherine

    I found the liquid to be thinner than expected – maybe I should have cut it back on stock to begin with since I cut back on the butter by 1/3. The lamb itself was delicious and tender. All in all, an interesting and filling dish that was easy to make.

  10. Nathan

    I made this recipe today with stew beef. It came out delicious! I used 5 lbs of chuck cubes and increased the other ingredients roughly proportionately. I lightly braised the beef in a hot wok after marinating and before adding to the stew. This gives a better texture to the meat. I also added salt to taste at the end–the recipe doesn’t mention salt.

    I used prunes instead of other dried fruit. Simmer times were quite a bit longer, maybe because of the increased size of the recipe.

    I was concerned it was going to be too thin, but with the honey and a long simmer at the end the sauce came out perfectly: thick and glossy and flavorful. Yum!

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