By Cat, Dec 2007 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
As a side dish, bulgur is very useful, and delicious when served with braised, sautéed (as in this recipe), or grilled lamb, or in making lamb kafta.
Bulgur (sprouted or roasted & cracked wheat grains), is a common ingredient in Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisines. If you’re wheat-free or gluten-free, substitute quinoa or kasha (roasted or sprouted buckwheat) for the bulgur. If you sprout the quinoa, it will have a much shorter cooking time (and offer improved nutrition), so add to the veg, meat, broth mix toward the end of the 15-20 minute cooking time.
Another option is steamed couscous; couscous is a type of very tiny pasta made from semolina, that is very popular in Morocco – perhaps more so than bulgur.
Lamb Pilaf (Moroccan Style)
This recipe is adapted from GroupRecipes, Lamb Lovers Moroccan Pilaf (1). Lamb shoulder is an economical meat to use in this dish, but look for a cut that has only a round bone (or boneless), to make it easier to slice into strips. Leg of lamb is a better cut and also excellent.
For the lamb rub, it calls for ½ tsp “Greek-style seasoning” which could be just about anything with oregano, garlic and lemon zest. I found this list on their site (2):
- fresh or dried oregano
- finely minced garlic and onion (or onion powder)
- grated lemon peel (zest)
- ground cinnamon, nutmeg and fennel seeds
I compared this with a Moroccan seasoning recipe on Epicurious (3), and noted the only item in common is cinnamon:
- ground spices: 2 parts each cumin and ginger, 1 part each cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, and allspice; and half-part cloves
For my first test I chose:
- Lamb rub: garlic, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and fennel;
- Simmering mixture: oregano, coriander, allspice and/or cardamom.
For a later test I chose a more Moroccan alternative:
- Lamb rub: garlic, allspice, coriander and cayenne for the rub;
- Simmering mixture: ginger, cinnamon, fennel and cloves.
Either way, this recipe is a quick favorite at my house. Serves 4 or more; I also include a 2-serving version
Ingredients & Equipment (4- or 2-servings):
Note: amounts in parenthesis are for 2-servings, if different
- Spice rub:
- 3 – 4 (2) garlic cloves
- ¼ (scant ¼) tsp unrefined sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8 (4 – 6) fennel seeds, ground (or more, to taste)
- Spices (updated for increased amounts per testing):
- Greek-style: grated zest of ½ lemon plus ⅛ – 1 (⅛- ½) tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice or cardamom; OR
- Moroccan-style: ⅛ – 1 (⅛- ½) tsp each allspice, coriander and cayenne
- Pilaf Recipe
- 1.5 lb (0.75 lb) boneless or round-bone leg of lamb steak or lamb shoulder chop
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided (1 Tbsp to brown lamb; 1 Tbsp brown veggies)
- 1 (½) onion, chopped
- 2 (1) stalks celery, minced
- 1 (½) cup dry bulgur (wheat, spelt or kamut), or quinoa
- 1 ½ (¾) cups veggie, potato-peel, or chicken broth
- Herbs & spices (updated for increased amounts per testing):
- Greek-style: ⅛ – ½ (⅛- ¼) tsp each ground coriander, allspice/cardamom, and oregano (or ½ (¼) tsp dried oregano leaves)
- Moroccan-style: ⅛ – ½ (⅛- ¼) tsp each ground ginger, cinnamon, fennel and cloves
- ¼ cup (2 Tbsp) raisins or Zante currants
- ¼ cup (2 Tbsp) slivered almonds
- sprigs of parsley or mint
- Cast iron skillet with lid (or saucier)
- mortar and pestle or spice grinder
- tiny bowl
Warning: don’t slice the lamb into strips until after rubbing on the spice mix (I learned this the hard way…)
- Quinoa (optional): If you plan to use quinoa, start to sprout it, 1 – 2 days before you plan to prepare this dish. Or you can use an overnight soak.
- If using bulgur, it has already been sprouted or roasted, so no advance prep is needed.
- Rub: If you want to marinate the meat in the rub, start that 1 day before you plan to prepare this dish, so it can marinate overnight. Or do the rub but skip marinating overnight.
- Mince garlic, sprinkle with sea salt; crush mixture with flat blade of knife until a lot of liquid is released.
- Grate zest into a tiny bowl. Grind the pepper and fennel over zest. Add spices/herbs ( see list of additional options in the intro); stir or whisk to blend, then rub into both sides of the chop.
- Cut chop into thin strips. Place in fridge to marinate, if desired.
- Prep veggies: Chop onion; mince celery and set aside.
- Cook: Heat 1 Tbsp oil in skillet over medium high heat; saute lamb strips until browned. Remove from skillet and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium, add remaining oil to skillet and warm. Then saute onion and celery until soft.
- Add bulgur and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. If using unsprouted quinoa, add it now, too. (Don’t add sprouted or pre-soaked quinoa until next step).
- Add reserved lamb, broth, oregano, cinnamon and allspice/cardamom. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, covered, until liquid has been absorbed. If using soaked or sprouted quinoa, add it in the last minutes of the cooking time (5 minutes if soaked; 2 minutes if sprouted).
- Optional: Add currants (for garnish) to the pilaf for about 5 minutes before serving,
- Garnish with raisins/Zante currants, almonds, and sprigs of fresh parsley or mint; serve.
- Accompany with Lebneh (yogurt and sesame sauce) if desired.
4/18/07: made as written with leg-of-lamb steak, substituting cardamom instead of allspice, and I used a veggie broth that I made and froze a month ago. I ground my own black pepper and fennel, but used commercially ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. The flavoring on the meat is excellent, and the pilaf is also tasty. It needed more salt at the table, as well as a black and red pepper mix. Currants and almonds are an excellent garnish; however, I added the currants to the pilaf for about 5 minutes before serving, to soften them, and I think that’s a good idea.
7/23/07: Added 1/4 tsp dried oregano when I add the broth. Otherwise made as written, with bulgur. I used a very bony lamb shoulder, and was frustrated when cutting the meat into strips because the bones had odd shapes. And it was fairly fatty. Result: the oregano is a good addition, tho perhaps could use more. This shoulder was not as tender as for the previous test, and the final dish was fatty. I think I’ll stick to leg of lamb in future.
9/29/16: Couldn’t get leg-of-lamb steak so used 6 oz lamb round-bone shoulder steak for half-recipe. It didn’t make enough of the rub, so I sprinkled on some garlic powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice before cooking. I updated recipe to use more garlic and spices. Forgot to thaw some chicken broth so used ½ tsp dried veggie broth in ¾ cup water, plus the spices for the broth, including oregano as per earlier testing. Otherwise made as written with 1½ cup dried bulgur and the currant/almond garnish. Result: Excellent. I’m so glad I added more spice to the meat. There’s enough pilaf left for another 6 oz lamb steak – Luckily, I bought a pair of them and set one aside for future. I served the lamb and pilaf with the almond/currant garnish, a steamed beetroot, and braised kale. Wonderful meal!
8/7/17: Made as written for half-recipe using 9 oz leg of lamb steak, veggie broth; garlic, allspice, coriander and cayenne for the Moroccan spice rub; and ginger, cinnamon, fennel and cloves in simmering mix.⅛ – ½ (⅛- ¼) Served with fresh, local green beans, and steamed beet; garnished pilaf with Zante currants and slivered almonds. Result: Delicious, and the small amount of heat from the cayenne really works well with the other spices. This version, like the Greek version, is a keeper!
- Group Recipes.com: Lamb Lovers Moroccan Pilaf (grouprecipes.com/74683/lamb-lovers-pilaf-moroccan.html)
- Group Recipes.com on Greek seasoning (grouprecipes.com/s/greek-seasoning/recipe/1/relevancy)
- Epicurious Moroccan Seasoning (epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/moroccan-spice-blend-109356)