This weekend marks the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. This holiday is also known as The Feast of the Sacrifice. You can read about it here. We learned about this holiday a couple years ago when the "lamb line" started ringing off the hook. We had just had our Leyden Glen Lamb website built and all of a sudden, we were on the Muslim Culinary Map!
About a month before Eid each year, the phone begins to ring.
Caller: "Do you have any lambs available?"
Us: Yes we do. Would you like them cut up and frozen or live?
Us: This is for Eid? You need a in-tact male (not castrated)?
Us: How many do you need?
The conversation goes on. We explain that if the customer slaughters the lamb at our farm there is an extra charge for disposing of all the innards. (Learned that the hard way.... Do you know how much stuff comes out of a lamb? How messy and disgusting it is? How fast the flies arrive? It's a lot of extra work for us and we need to be compensated!)
This week we are busy sorting and catching male lambs for families who will be celebrating Eid. Our home grown lambs are being used for family celebrations throughout Massachusetts. We didn't have enough male lambs available for all the phone calls. One of our Muslim customers compared Eid to American Thanksgiving. I like that! It has been really interesting learning about different holidays where lamb and mutton is the traditional meat.
Millions of Muslim people all over the world celebrating Eid, sacrificing male lambs, and enjoying a feast with their families. In Senegal, there is a t.v. show called Khar Bii (This Sheep). You can listen to a story on NPR here. It has become very popular - good article online here about the show and its producer. I watched Khar Bii on YouTube. Couldn't understand a word but found it interesting anyway. The "beautiful sheep" were all rams, many raised on top of the owner's homes in specially built enclosures. Sheep are highly prized animals in Senegal. The producer of Khar Bii says this about sheep:
"Sheep is a sacred animal. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son to prove his faith, the ram — the magic animal — appeared and sacrificed itself in place of Abraham's son. So, this ultimate sacrifice is the reason why here in Senegal, we believe that having a sheep in the house is protecting the house. It is protecting us from bad spirits. And the sheep will always sacrifice itself instead of us."
Fascinating how different countries have different pet animals.
Today's recipe comes from Morocco. It is called Mrouzia and is a traditional stew of lamb, honey, raisins, almonds and spices. I found the recipe in the November 2012 issue of Saveur but I have tweaked it some to suit our family's tastes (the magazine's version was way too sweet). It has interesting flavors and our family really enjoyed it. The recipe is different than one I grew up with but when we ate it, we couldn't help but say that if one grew up with this meal, it would be a real treat. The combination of honey with the lamb, almonds and spices is different but delicious. Mrouzia is one of those great fix it and forget it meals. Give it a try and celebrate Eid with people all over the world.
(Lamb Braised with Honey, Almonds and Raisins)
(Lamb Braised with Honey, Almonds and Raisins)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder chops or stew meat
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion - chopped fine (can be done in food processor)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons Ras El Hanout*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoons honey
*Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend. If you can't find it at a gourmet store, here is a recipe for it. Otherwise, substitute 1 teaspoon each ground coriander, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground cloves.)
Heat olive oil in Dutch oven. Brown lamb shoulder chops on both sides. Remove to a plate to hold.
Melt butter in Dutch oven. Saute onions and garlic until transparent. Add spices and stir. Add 3 cups of water. Return lamb to pot. Bring to a boil and then place in 250 degree oven and cook very slowly for 2 1/2 hours. Remove pot from oven and add almonds, raisins, and honey. Return to oven and cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours adding extra liquid if it has evaporated. The lamb is done when it is falling off the bones. Remove and let cool.
NOTE: If you won't be home to add the almonds and raisins half way through the cooking, add them in the beginning. They may be a little softer but just as tasty.
If you have time, let the Mrouzia sit for a day or two in the refrigerator. Skim the excess fat off the top of the pot before warming. If there is too much sauce, cook without a lid to let the sauce thicken. Serve over rice or couscous.
Alternately, cook everything in a crock pot and it will be delicious too!