The heady aroma of exotic spices will fill your kitchen and tempt your family as you cook this easy, one-pot stew.
In North Africa this dish would be called a tagine, a Moroccan word that refers to a variety of stews involving meat or poultry cooked with vegetables and numerous spices. Tagines often incorporate other ingredients such as citrus, preserved lemons and olives, so feel free to improvise and modify this recipe to suit your preferences and pantry. The complex flavors of the rich meat, fragrant spices and sweet dried fruits are at their best when the stew is served with steamed couscous or rice.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat and sear on all sides, turning the pieces with tongs. Don't crowd the meat as you brown it; it may be necessary to do this in batches.
Transfer the browned lamb to a platter and set aside. Leave any accumulated fat in the pan.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the Dutch oven and add the ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and red pepper flakes. Cook the spices in the oil over medium heat, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add the leek, onion and carrots, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute, stirring constantly.
Add the seared lamb cubes to the pan along with the stock, tomatoes and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook 60 minutes. Check the stew occasionally to make sure that it's not boiling.
Remove the cover from the pan and check the lamb to see if it's tender. If not, re-cover and cook until the meat is tender, 15 to 30 minutes more. When the meat is fork-tender, add the dates and apricots, and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes to heat and soften the fruit.
To serve, transfer the stew to a platter or shallow bowl, sprinkle with the cilantro and almonds, if using, and serve immediately. The stew may be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days, and reheated slowly to serve.