Sunday, August 29, 2010

Moroccan Beef Stew

Saturday is my favorite cooking day because, in addition to whatever else needs to be done, I almost always have a good part of the day to putter around in the kitchen at my own speed. Come Thursday night—all right, sometimes Wednesday night—I start thinking about what I want to make over the weekend, in addition to what I need to buy in order to make dinner for the following week. And, after my classes on Friday morning, I love to head for HEB and do the grocery shopping. That’s when the weekend begins, in my book.

At some point this past week, I was flipping through a folder of recipes I keep: one pocket is full of recipes I’ve tried and liked, and the other is full of recipes I have yet to try. (Some I never will, and I know this, but it takes a certain amount of strength to admit that to myself and actually throw the recipe away.) In the “tried and liked” pocket, I found a recipe for Moroccan Beef Stew. I had a vague memory of trying this recipe last fall, but I also thought I remembered not liking it that much. I decided that I must have thought the basic recipe had promise and needed tweaking. So, I looked up a few different versions of the recipe and came up with my own.

The original recipe didn’t call for using beef stock, or for dredging and browning the stew meat before adding it to the slow cooker. You can certainly skip those steps, if you’re in a hurry, but it really does add a depth of flavor to the stew. I also used diced tomatoes in place of whole, peeled tomatoes—the hubs adores a big chunk of tomato, but the rest of us prefer ours in the form of smaller pieces or, better yet, sauce. I figured a can of diced tomatoes was a good compromise, especially since the tomatoes would soften after cooking in the stew all day. Finally, the original recipe didn’t call for the flour and water slurry I added toward the end of the cooking time, to thicken up the broth.

This version was a big hit with the hubs, and my son ate a good portion of stew and couscous as well, though he made a point of telling me that he prefers “the regular kind of stew”—with white potatoes and carrots rather than sweet potatoes and chickpeas. That will have to wait for another Saturday. 

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Moroccan Beef Stew

Ingredients:

2 pounds stew meat, cut into small chunks
2 T. flour
1 T. olive oil
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick half-circles
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1 can diced tomatoes
½ cup dried apricots
2 cups beef stock
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 T. flour
1 cup beef broth
1 box (10 oz.) couscous
1 can chickpeas
2 cups baby spinach

Directions:

In a large, re-sealable plastic bag, shake the beef chunks and flour until the beef is completely coated. Heat olive oil in a skillet and add the beef, turning until it's browned on all sides. When the beef is browned on the outside, but not cooked through, place it in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pile the sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and apricots on top. Add the spices to the beef stock, whisk to combine, and pour the stock over everything. Cover and cook for 4 hours on high heat or 7 to 8 hours on low heat, until the meat is tender and the potatoes are soft.

Thirty minutes before you plan to serve the stew, stir 2 tablespoons of flour into a cup of cold beef broth to make a slurry. Use a fork or a whisk to make sure there are no remaining lumps of flour. (Whatever you do, don't use hot beef broth or add the flour directly to the slow cooker—you'll end up with a mess of lumps that won't dissolve, because the outside of the lumps will cook in the hot broth and hold the dry flour inside.) Add the slurry to the hot stew and stir it together thoroughly. Replace the lid and allow the stew to cook for another half hour, giving it time to thicken.

Ten minutes before you're ready to serve the stew, prepare the couscous as directed on the box. (Usually, this involves boiling some water and adding the couscous, then letting it sit in a covered pan for 5 minutes or so.) While the couscous is softening, stir the chickpeas into the stew and let them heat through for 2 or 3 minutes. Finally, stir in the spinach just before serving. It'll wilt a little in the heat of the stew, but retain its bright color.

Serve the stew on a bed of couscous.

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One Response to “Moroccan Beef Stew”

  1. 1

    mangocheeks — August 31, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

    I'm a bit like that. Look forward to weekend during the working week as to what I can make. Nice when you can take your time, rather than rush.

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