This blazing heat of summer inspired me to cook a dinner made with exotic ingredients. Lamb was to be the main flavour which would be complimented with aromatic spices common to North African cuisine, that’s when safflower came into the picture.
Safflower is one of the oldest cultivated crop that has been used for its oil, cosmetics, medicine and for flavouring and dyeing food and textiles. Though similar looking to saffron, safflower is not the same spice. Often times safflower is used as an inexpensive substitute for saffron. One very important fact to mention is that the cost difference between the two is huge. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, whereas safflower is quite inexpensive.
My safflower was a gift from a friend who purchased it for me on a trip to Egypt — lucky me. It is a great spice for adding some colour to a dish as well a a tiny hint of flavour. It compliments lamb, cinnamon, cumin and ginger wonderfully. Those spices are ever present in the cuisine of North Africa, as is lamb.
To give the dish more nutrition and colour I added some fresh vegetables. Green beans, carrot and red peppers are all in season and gave the lamb a delicious taste. You could of course substitute them with your favorite seasonal vegetables. If you don’t like the taste of lamb, beef would be a great replacement. And if you don’t have access to safflower then paprika can be used in its place.
Besides the amazing aromas that will waft through your house as the dish simmers, you’ll love that it is a one pot meal that can also be made in a crockpot. Here’s how you make it.
- 1.5 tbsp good quality olive oil
- 200 gm or 7 oz boneless lamb, cubed and excess fat removed
- 200 gm or 7 oz fresh green beans, tips cut off (frozen may be used instead)
- 100 gm or 3.5 oz carrot, peeled and evenly cut
- 200 gm or 7 oz sweet red pepper, seeded and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp dried safflower*
- 1.5 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp dried and ground ginger
- 1 tsp sea salt, adjust to taste
- ½ tsp ground black pepper, adjust to taste
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 235 ml or 1 cup water, more if needed
- Heat the oil and once warm brown the lamb pieces. Add all of the spices and stir for a minute or two or until they begin to release their scent. Add all of the vegetables, water and sherry wine. Cover and simmer until the lamb is tender, about 40 minutes. If the lamb is still tough add more water and continue to simmer. You may add more if needed or would like more broth.
**Sherry wine can be purchase at your local store or online. Alternatively you can replace it with rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
I served our dinner with rice and some buttery, spiced naan hubby purchased the day before. Alternatively it can also be served with couscous, or with either quinoa or millet for a gluten-free dinner.
How ever you serve it, I hope you get a chance to taste this scrumptious dish soon. Have a great weekend!!