Lamb and Broad Bean Stew with Harissa
I had some leftover British Lamb from the weekend and lots of seasonal vegetables from Perry Court Farm, so I thought I’d combine them with harissa and preserved lemons to make a Moorish stew. For the uninitiated, harissa is a hot red paste (associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria) of roasted red peppers, Baklouti pepper, serrano pepper and hot chilli pepper, combined with herbs, spices, garlic paste, etc. Interestingly, while the Moors strongly influenced Spanish cuisine, it’s the Spanish who brought back chilli pepper from the Americas to the Mediterranean.
I recently posted a recipe for a dried broad bean and chorizo stew, but since fava beans (broad beans) are in season I thought I’d use fresh. The broad bean is of particular relevance to a Moorish stew, since it predates the use of white beans (from the Americas) around the Mediterranean by many millennia.
Lamb and Broad Bean Stew recipe (serves 3 greedy people):
I used a Spanish cazuela to cook my stew, but a cast iron casserole or large frying pan would be equally good.
1lb roast lamb (chopped)
3 slices or jamón serrano or streaky bacon (chopped) – to keep the Inquisition at bay
a small piece of chorizo (chopped)
1 pint of homemade lamb stock
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
3 small courgettes (chopped)
1lb tomatoes blanched and peeled
1lb broad beans (shelled)
1 preserved lemon – pips removed and quartered
a handful of olives
a 1 inch piece of ginger (grated)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon hot smoked pimentón
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
2 dessertspoons harissa
a squirt of anchovy paste
a couple of big splashes of sherry vinegar (to taste)
a heaped dessertspoon of plain flour
First fry the onion and add the chopped ham and chorizo, when it has turned translucent. Chorizo isn’t a feature of the stew – it’s actually to add flavour and commonly used this way in Spanish cuisine. When the meat has taken some colour the courgettes, green pepper and garlic can go in, followed by the broad beans.
Stir the vegetables for a few minutes while heating the cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan on a low heat. When the seeds start to give off an aroma grind them with a mortar and pestle – they can go into the vegetables along with a teaspoon of turmeric powder. The entire dish will take on a distinct turmeric yellow colour (as above).
Blanch the tomatoes beforehand and pour some cold water over them in a colander. That way you can squeeze them into the cazuela without burning your hands. I save the skins and use them in stock later. Next add the chopped lamb and stir in the tomato purée, a squirt of anchovy paste and half a pint of stock.
Grate a piece of ginger into the stew (I broke off and used the finger on the right). Splash in a little sherry vinegar, sprinkle on the pimentón and squeeze in about a dessertspoon of harissa. Give this all a good stir and taste. Always add a little seasoning at a time – you can add more, but you can’t take any away. Harissa starts off hot but seems to dissipate over time. I take a tip from the Moroccan food stalls in Goldborne Road where they have harissa in a bowl and people stir a spoonful of it into their food before eating – so I add a little harissa to the cooking and put more in at the end, just before serving.
I keep thinking that I should make my own preserved lemons, but they are far cheaper to buy than fresh ones and the liquid they come in seems to be reasonably natural (water, salt and citric acid).
When the stew looks about right, in terms of liquid, chop a preserved lemon into four, remove the pips and stir in the quarters along with a handful of olives. I used some good mixed olives preserved in olive oil. Liquid will come out of the vegetables as they cook, so I don’t pour all the stock in to start with. Generally I find that a stew will get very wet and some plain flour is needed (stirred in) to thicken it a bit. As the cooking proceeds some of the liquid will evaporate and then more stock will need to be added.
Cook the stew on low (covered), for two hours or so, until the broad beans are tender. Check the seasoning every 30 minutes and stir to stop it sticking. Serve with couscous, rice or boiled potatoes. It’s very tempting to put it in a bowl and eat it with good sourdough bread and a drizzled of olive oil.
I drank a glass of chilled Carta Roja, Monastrell Gran Reserva with my stew – it’s not unusual to drink cold red wine in Spain, especially when the weather is hot!