Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lamb and Date Stew for Sukkot


I could not be happier. October is here, we are celebrating Sukkot this week and the sun continues to shine every day.


Each year, the sounds of drilling, hammering and music on the radio (or sometimes a football game) ring out from the back yard as Bob, Sam and Isaac construct our sukkah. I cut branches from bushes around the yard for the sukkah’s roof, we string lights to decorate, and the picnic table is set for dinner.


Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest and we gather together to welcome guests into the sukkah. Sukkot also signals the time when I open my arms to fall cooking and embrace the warming soups and stews of the season.

Lamb stew is a favorite on our menu during Sukkot.  Hearty and cozy, it is a bowl full of rich flavor, spiced with ginger and cinnamon. I like to include dates and honey since their flavors melt into the lamb and evoke the sweetness of the holiday. This year I used date paste brought to us by our lovely friends, Galit and Roni, when they visited from Israel in August.  An extra sweet treat!


The stew is best made a day or two ahead of time, giving time for the flavors to marry. This makes it ideal to entertain with since you only need to pop it in the oven to warm while you pour wine and chat with your guests.

For the next week, we’ll have dinner every night in our sukkah. With the wonderful extended summer we’re having, we’ll be able to linger around the table and I am grateful for this gift.  And later in the evening, I love seeing the twinkling sukkah lights through the kitchen door as I call the dogs in and head out to close the chicken coop up for the night. Happy autumn.


Lamb and Date Stew
Serves 6-8

2 onions, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces date paste (purée pitted dates with a bit of water in the food processor or use packaged date paste, usually found in a Middle Eastern market)
3 tablespoons honey
5 pounds boneless lamb, cubed
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
Chopped parsley for garnish

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy soup pot, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir.

Add the date paste and break into small chunks to begin softening it. It will be sticky - don’t worry about getting it smooth, it will melt and blend as the stew simmers. Add the honey, lamb cubes, red wine and sesame seeds and stir gently to combine. Increase the heat to medium high until the stew begins to bubble, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. During the last half hour, remove the lid and let simmer uncovered to thicken and reduce the liquid.

Let the stew cool to room temperature, cover and pop in the fridge. It can be made a day or two ahead. On the day you want to serve it, remove and scrape any congealed fat off the top. Cover and warm in a low oven until ready to eat. Sprinkle with additional sesame seeds and a bit of parsley. It’s very good served with whole wheat Israeli couscous.

34 comments:

  1. Happy Succot! I don't eat meat,but dates are good with almost everything;D

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    1. You're right, Yaelian - dates so versatile and delicious. I love all the varieties, too. Last year we did a date tasting and I found deglet noor to be my favorite. Chag sameach!

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  2. Oh, wow. This stew sounds amazing! And what a beautiful setting to eat it in! Happy fall! Enjoy your holiday! :)

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    1. Thank you, Brianne! We are enjoying lots of outdoor meals this week - such a gift to have a gorgeous start to fall. Happy autumn to you!

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  3. This looks like the perfect thing for a night like tonight. Beautiful and crisp and cloudless. If there wasn't such a breeze I'd like a good bonfire tonight!

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    1. Loving these crisp, gorgeous evenings, Brooke! Last night was chilly enough I was thinking of a fire, too. Aren't the leaves pretty? I love all the vibrant color emerging.

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    2. I'm hoping the trees around here will hang in there a few more weeks. Our house has two full walls of windows in the living room and it's just a riot of color when all the maples change. I'm looking forward to it and I hope they're still on when we have our party at the end of the month!

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    3. Oh, your windows of color sound just beautiful, Brooke! I, too, hope we keep the gorgeous leaves for awhile. Always a shame when the wind starts and they blow away. Have fun with your party! :)

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  4. Haven't we been having some lovely fall weather? I think I'm going to try this stew for one of my book club dinners. The fact that it can be made ahead and reheated is perfect.

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    1. Yes, I'm loving these gorgeous days and all the trees turning various shades. We are very fortunate this fall!

      I think this stew would be wonderful for book club - I'm delighted you may make it! I do hope you enjoy it.

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  5. I love this stew, the lamb, dates, and red wine sound like an unusual and delicious combination!

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    1. Thank you so much, Sue! The stew is a rich one and I like the sweetness that the dates add. I appreciate you stopping by. :)

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  6. I love lamb, what a perfect stew for the chilly fall nights ahead!

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    1. Thank you, Laura! Nothing better than snuggling up with a bowl of stew once the cold weather arrives - preferably by a fire. :)

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  7. Fall has absolutely arrived in Seattle, has it not?! It was actually cold this afternoon, but the change in air is welcome, particularly when balanced by the sunny days, as you said. This dish looks right up my alley...perhaps dinner on Saturday!

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    1. I am loving the chilly air and sunny days, Erina. I think this is the prettiest fall ever! I hope you enjoy the stew if you decide to make it this weekend. :)

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  8. Happy Sukkot. I love the flavor of dates with lamb. Your stew sounds heavenly.

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    1. Oh, thank you, Penny! I appreciate your kind comment.

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  9. Happy Sukkot! I heard about it but didn't know how you call it in English. I learned something new today. And your Sukkah is beautiful!! The table setting and lights... not to mention your lamb stew! The warm weather on West coast might be nice treat for your week long dinner in Sukkah. Enjoy!

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    1. Thank you so much, Nami! We are enjoying lots of meals outside this week and I'm grateful the sun is still shining. Our Japanese exchange student(the one my son stayed with last year)arrives in another day, so he'll have the chance to eat with us in the sukkah, too. We're looking forward to it!

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  10. And here I thought my son got two more days off from school for all the seniors to go college hunting. :-) I guess it was actually for Sukkot! Love that you take the time to build a sukkah and eat in it - fantastic. The weather is crazy summer hot here but we're so wrapped up in our busy-ness now - the joy of eating outdoors is eluding us. Bookmarking this stew though - I love lamb!!

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    1. Isn't senior year wild, Beth? Whew, definitely a busy time. I hope you get a chance to relax a bit. Happy Sukkot to you! And I hope you enjoy the stew. :)

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  11. Your handsome boys! Your beautiful sukkah!
    Chag sameach. This stew sounds perfect for an October evening.

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    1. Ahh, thank you, Molly! I agree, I do have handsome boys! Chag sameach to you - I hope you're enjoying a lovely holiday.

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  12. Wow, that stew looks incredible :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Ilan! I'm happy you stopped by.

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  13. I love lamb. Lamb and date combination looks delicious. Saw your photo on foodgawker and had to click over to your site.

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    1. Thank you, Julia! I love lamb this time of year - makes a sweet transition into fall with the addition of dates. I appreciate you visiting!

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  14. Wow this looks delicious!! Have you tried making it in a slow cooker ever? Not sure if the lamb would get too tough if I let it cook on low for a few hours?

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    1. Thank you so much! I haven't used a slow cooker for this stew, but I'm sure it would work well. I haven't had any problem cooking it covered on the stove top on low - lots of juices emerge and keep it quite moist. Please let me know how it turns out for you if you try a slow cooker method. I hope you enjoy!

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  15. What a wonderful celebration :) Dates & lamb sound like a wonderful combination. Happy Sukkot!

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    1. Thank you, Mairi! We had a marvelous week celebrating, which included the gift of warm evenings to linger outside. Now it's rainy and cold, but I can't complain after the gorgeous weeks we just had. Hope you're enjoying a sunny spring!

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