Libyan Lamb Stew with Carrots and Green Olives (Tajin Sfinari bil Zaytun)
Adapted from Libyan Food
Libyan Lamb Stew has an unusual mix of flavorings – caraway, cinnamon, Harissa, green olives, lemons, parsley – and an abundance of carrots. The combination forms a surprisingly rich, yet fresh and compellingly delicious, sauce. Although it’s called a “tajin,” Libyan Food instructs, “Tajin in Libya doesn’t refer to the distinctive Morrocan cooking vessels, it just means casserole.” Libyan Food calls for baking the stew 45 minutes after you add carrots; I’ve reduced that time to 30 minutes because I prefer carrots’ flavor and texture when they aren’t completely soft. If you prefer softer carrots, use the original recipe’s 45-minute cooking time. If you can find meat on the bone, be sure to add the bone during the lamb’s initial cooking to add flavor. The best source of lamb in Anchorage, Costco, only sells boneless lamb legs. With boneless meat, I cook it in chicken stock rather than water to add the flavor boost that normally comes from bones. Because their flavor plays such a large role in this dish, buy the best quality carrots you can find.
2-2 1/4 pound boneless lamb leg or shoulder (or 2 1/4-2 1/2 pound bone-in lamb)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups diced yellow onion, 1/4” dice
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
4 cups water or chicken stock
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4” slices
24 good quality green olives, pitted
1 Tbsp. harissa, homemade or store-bought
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon)
1 cup chopped parsley
Wash and dry lamb. Cut meat into 1 1/2” cubes, reserving bones, if any. Season meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In large, ovenproof pot, such as a Dutch oven, brown meat in olive oil. When well-browned, stir in onion, caraway seeds, and ginger, using moisture from onions to help scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Cook until onions soften and begin to turn golden. Stir in water or chicken stock, cinnamon sticks, and any bones, and bring to a boil. Partially cover and turn heat down to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes or until sauce thickens and reduces, and lamb is cooked through. (Alternatively, after browning lamb, you may pressure cook it with the other ingredients for 15 minutes.)
While lamb is cooking, preheat oven to 475°F.
When lamb is done cooking on top of stove, remove cinnamon sticks and any bones from pot. Stir in carrots. Cover pot tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until carrots are cooked through and lamb is very tender.
Stir in olives and harissa. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley.
Serve immediately with steamed rice and a bowl of extra harissa.