The silver lining to this week's cold and gloomy weather was the chance to try out a stew recipe from the Moroccan cookbook my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday. The one I chose is a Sephardic sabbath stew called Dafina, made with beef and chickpeas and flavored with dried fruit and saffron.
The meat requires no browning, so you merely toss together all the ingredients in a big pot and slide it in the oven. Magically the flavors infuse, the meat and chickpeas become tender, the barley melts into the background as it thickens the stew, and the yam pieces dissolved into the broth, adding depth to the fruity sauce.
I wanted something fresh, tangy, and salty to complement the stew's mellow sweetness. Lacking preserved lemons, I improvised a lemon, caper, and parsley pesto dressing for a salad of chopped kale and almonds that did the trick.
This stew is traditionally served with eggs that have been cooked in their shells in the meat pot, giving them a brown, mottled appearance. For the under ten crowd in the household, I hard boiled the eggs separately and the over ten crowd enjoyed them layered on the stew with a dollop of harissa.
Sephardic Sabbath Stew
adapted from Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse
1 cup dried chickpeas (if they are older, soak them in water overnight)
1/2 cup golden hulless barley (from Lonesome Whistle Farm)
2 lb beef chuck, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 onions, finely chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 large or 2 small yams, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
6 prunes, pitted and chopped
8 dried apricots, chopped
pinch saffron threads
3 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
hard boiled eggs (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toss the cubed beef in the cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Soak the saffron threads to 1/4 cup of boiled water. Prepare all of the vegetables.
2. In a large Dutch oven combine all of the ingredients except the eggs. Cook in the oven, covered, for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally, and adding more liquid if necessary, until the beef is very tender and the chickpeas are soft but still firm. Raise the temperature to 400 degrees, uncover the pot and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes to allow the stew to caramelize.
3. Serve with harissa and quartered hard boiled eggs, if desired.
Kale Salad with Lemon, Capers, and Almonds
serves 4 as a side salad
4-6 lacinato kale leaves
2 Tbsp capers
1 cup Italian parsley leaves
1 large or 2 small lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup whole almonds
1. Cut the kale leaves from the stem, cut wide leaves lengthwise, and then cut the leaves crosswise into 1/4 inch strips.
2. Prepare the dressing. In a food processor or blender, combine the capers, the parsley leaves, the zest and juice from the lemon, and the olive oil. Blend into a pesto with some texture. Toss the kale leaves in the dressing to coat well.
3. In a dry skillet or a toaster oven, toast the almonds until fragrant. Chop them coarsely and toss them into the salad. Serve along side the stew.