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Day 323: Middle Eastern Slow-Cooked Stew with Lamb, Chickpeas, and Figs


As promised, I hauled out my Crock-pot today. (Partly to celebrate the shiny new ones that are en route to Maureen and Theresa! I am heeding the request to post winners’ names. Sorry I’m so late.) And last night I pulled out a boneless leg of lamb that had been taking up altogether too much space in the freezer.

When outside it’s the same shade of grey all day long, so that you can’t tell what time it is until it begins to get dark at 4 o’clock, and the gritty snow and slush require you to halt the dog upon entering the house and wipe down his muddy paws every single time he has to go pee or sniff something, it puts me in the mood for a dark, sticky, robust, slow-cooked stew, preferably served over a mound of warm carbohydrates.

I’ve been thinking about braised lamb shanks, but this caught my eye as I flipped through magazines in the car on our drive home. The original is done in a Dutch oven and calls for raisins and figs, but I opted to stick with just figs, which aren’t as sweet as raisins; I imagine dried apricots would work well too. The lamb roast was cut into chunks, half of which are back in the freezer for a future experiment.

I browned and threw the meat/onion/stock component in at noon, and added the beans, carrots and figs at around 4. At 6ish I put a kettle on to boil and made couscous. (1 cup couscous to 1 1/4 cups boiling water; pour over the couscous in a bowl and top with a plate; leave for 10 minutes then fluff with a fork. I don’t even understand why they make instant couscous. Could it really be faster and easier?)

Mike loved this. I liked it more the deeper into the bowl I got; the combination of cinnamon and lamb has always been a little too Medieval for me. I can’t seem to shake the thought that it was once used to mask meat that had gone a little off. It makes lamb taste gamier to me. It was quite tasty though, and I imagine it will be more so tomorrow, and Thursday when I’ll be in Red Deer at dinnertime. This is another Great Thing about slow cookers in the winter: you can just lid the leftovers and set the whole thing outside, or in your garage, and plug it back in to rewarm the next night. (If you suspect any critters in your yard are cunning enough to access your slow cooker, hide it in the barbecue.)

Provided it’s cold enough, of course. Don’t try this in July. Or in Texas.

Middle Eastern Slow-Cooked Stew with Lamb, Chickpeas and Figs

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November 18, 2008


a drizzle of canola or olive oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cubed

3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced

4-6 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cinnamon stick

1 can less-sodium beef broth

1 19 oz. (540 mL) can chick peas,  drained

1-2 cups baby carrots

1 cup dried figs, halved

salt and pepper

fresh mint, if you like


1Slow-cooker version: heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet and brown the lamb in batches, without crowding the pan, transferring to the slow cooker as you go. (No need to cook them through, just brown them to add flavour.) Add a little more oil and then brown the onions and garlic; add to the slow cooker. Pour about 1/2 cup of water into the skillet and scrape up any browned bits; add to the slow cooker along with the ginger, spices and stock. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. At around the 4 hour mark, add the chick peas, carrots and figs. When you're ready to eat, season with salt and pepper and if you like, stir in some fresh mint (or scatter it on top).

2Stovetop version: Heat a drizzle of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat;  sauté the lamb in batches until browned. Remove from pan and set aside; brown the onions. Add the garlic and 1/2 cup water; cook for a few more minutes, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

3Return the meat to the pan along with the ginger and spices. Add the stock, cover, reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Stir in the chick peas, carrots, and figs; cover and simmer 20-30 minutes or until carrots are tender. Season with salt and stir in chopped fresh mint just before serving, or sprinkle it on top of each bowl.

4Serves 8.


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13 comments on “Day 323: Middle Eastern Slow-Cooked Stew with Lamb, Chickpeas, and Figs

  1. Cheryl
    November 19, 2008 at 6:46 am

    I’ve totally done the hide in the BBQ thing! Great spot for the turkey after Christmas.

  2. Buddiegirl
    November 19, 2008 at 9:19 am

    The BBQ is a great place to hide the turkey during the holidays, but we learned several years ago, that spring is not a good time to finally remember that is where the last of the turkey went to. No wonder all those cats were hanging around our backyard. LOL Now if we are storing anything outside during the winter, we make a note for the back door so that we don’t forget it until the snow melts.

    The stew looks great, and something I would love to try if the rest of my family liked lamb the way that I do.

  3. robyn
    November 19, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Hmmm. Storing food outside doesn’t work well in Vancouver.

    The stew looks delicious!

  4. mmac
    November 19, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Hmmm. Wonder how many Maureens entered the contest this week. Quietly pondering this and trying not to get too excited while I do.

  5. Theresa
    November 19, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Thank you Julie!
    I’m sooooo lucky to win this! I promise I’ll use it lots. I’m so excited!!!!

  6. Dana
    November 19, 2008 at 11:43 am

    It’s cold here and that stew looks really inviting!

    Nice flavours.

  7. JulieVR
    November 19, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Oops, sorry. Yes there is another Maureen out there.. in Victoria.. I won’t post winners here until they’ve been notified by DWJ Officials!

  8. mmac
    November 19, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Can’t get too much of a good thing, is what I say. The more Maureens the merrier. Enjoy your Crock-Pot, other Maureen!

  9. piccola
    November 19, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    My family (in Ottawa) has an open house every year after the holidays, and we spend a whole day cooking and baking. Since the kitchen is so small, we always set covered pots and pans – full of veggie chili, stews and tourtières – to rest outside.

    Until the year squirrels – seriously! – got into the food and ruined it for everyone… Needless to say, they survived the winter.

  10. Maureen
    November 19, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I was completely taken aback that I won! I have never won anything in a contest before-and being 50 that is a long drought!

    Thank you very much for the opportunity Julie. I will report back when the pot arrives. That delicious looking stew will be the first thing I make.
    I am not very familar with crockpot cooking so will eagerly await more recipes. I also love an excuse to buy another cookbook!
    Any recs from anyone?

    Again, thank you so much Julie.
    You and your blog rock!

  11. JulieVR
    November 19, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Yeah, my Crock Pot has a really heavy lid, I can’t imagine a rodent being able to move it! I did have a squirrel incident that involved a chocolate Yule log though…

  12. hot tail
    November 2, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Some truly nice and utilitarian info on this site, likewise I believe the pattern contains fantastic features.

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