Hi, this is Jocelyne and I am a chef who loves her spices!
As a child I grew up in Lebanon smelling very aromatic spices. In Lebanon lunch is a very important meal almost as important as dinner! We would spend a couple of hours relaxing, chatting and having fun at family meals each day. I treasured those times with my family.
My Mother and Grandmother began each day by preparing the Lunch meal. The kitchen is the heart of the house. What I remember most was the warm, delicious, aromatic smell of cumin, paprika, garlic and turmeric in the dishes they were preparing. I just couldn’t wait for lunch!
This East Meets West Lamb Stew recipe infuses spices from North Africa to Spain and is a great example of how mixing the right spices together can create something truly succulent and memorable.
East Meets West Lamb Stew
3 tbsp olive oil
1 c celery, washed and diced small
1 c carrots, washed, peeled and diced small
1 c leeks, washed, trimmed (white and light green parts only), diced fine
1 medium onion, diced fine
3 cloves garlic, peeled, ends trimmed and minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 lb lamb cut in bite sized cubes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 c parsley, washed, de-stemmed, and chopped fine
4 c water
1 c chickpeas, canned, drained & rinsed
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp chicken base paste
4 oz brown lentils
1 package of pita or naan bread (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a medium size stock pot or dutch oven. Add all vegetables except the garlic and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the lamb and cook until browned.
Stir in the remaining spices, water tomato paste, chicken base paste and bay leaves.
Simmer for 40 minutes.
Add the lentils, chickpeas, and cook gently for 40 minutes or until tender.
Sprinkle in the parsley just before serving.
Serve with warm pita bread or naan bread if desired.
Paprika is one of my all-time favorite spices. It originated in Hungary and is the key ingredient in the famous dish “Goulash”. It comes in a “sweet style” and a “smoked style”. Both have very distinct flavors.
I use a special kind of smoked Paprika called “Pimento de la Vera” which comes from Spain. It has a very distinct smokey flavor and aroma that I love.
Cumin is another very aromatic spice and is an ancient seed that used in Egypt, India, Moroccan and Mexican dishes. It is also used extensively throughout the Middle East. Cumin was part of the mummification process in ancient Egypt! It is a very pungent spice and can overpower a dish. Experiment to see how much you like. You can always add more but unfortunately you can’t take it out!