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This traditional Moroccan Steamed Lamb recipe is often made in the days following Eid al-Adha, when generous cuts of meat are on hand after a home slaughter. Although not a fancy dish, it’s tender, tasty and quite satisfying with salt and cumin on the side for dipping.
Steamed lamb is easy to make, but be sure to allow several hours to steam the meat until it becomes buttery soft and falls off the bone. A large steamer or couscoussier will work as your cooking vessel, but I use a pressure cooker fitted with a steamer basket, which eliminates the need for cheesecloth and reduces the cooking time by half.
Or, you can try oven steaming instead of stove top steaming. This is explained in the recipe Notes.
Use shoulder, flank, ribs. If your steamer has room, carrots, potatoes or other vegetables such as green beans, turnips, zucchini or Brussels sprouts can be added during the second half of cooking for a well-balanced meal. Or, you can plan to steam or cook vegetables separately and arrange them on the serving platter around the meat.
Moroccan Steamed Lamb Recipe
- 4 1/2 lbs lamb large pieces on the bone, trimmed of fat
- 3 tbsp soft unsalted butter (can use part or all smen instead)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp saffron threads, crumbled (optional)
- 1 small bunch parsley and/or cilantro, tied into a bouquet
- small handful of mint sprigs, (optional; see Notes)
- 1/2 lb small onions, peeled and halved (optional)
- 1/2 lb small new potatoes, peeled (optional)
- 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" slices (optional)
- salt and cumin
- In a large pot or pressure cooker that's fitted with a steamer basket, bring a large quantity of salted water to a boil. Be sure the water level is below the bottom of your steamer basket.
- Meanwhile, mix the butter with the salt, pepper and saffron. Pierce each piece of meat with a sharp knife in several places and rub the butter mixture over the meat and into the slits.
- Pot method. Place the parsley, meat and onions into the steamer and fit it onto the pot. (Be sure no steam escapes from the joint where the steamer meets the pot. If steam escapes, see the Notes for how to seal the joint.) Cover the steamer basket with a layer of damp cheesecloth. Close the lid tightly, and steam the meat for 1 1/2 hours without peeking. Add the potatoes and carrots, cover tightly again, and continue steaming for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat can be pulled easily from the bone and the vegetables are tender.
- Pressure cooker method. Place the parsley, meat and onions into the steamer and fit into the pressure cooker. Close the lid tightly, and cook with pressure over medium heat for 1 hour. Add the potatoes and carrots, cover tightly again, and continue steaming for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until the meat can be pulled easily from the bone and the vegetables are tender.
- Serve the lamb with the onions, potatoes and carrots on a large platter with small dishes of salt and cumin for dipping the meat and vegetables.
- When selecting or buying your meat, be sure it's cut into pieces which will fit into your steamer.
- Mint may be used with (or in place of) the parsley. Instead of tying your herbs into a bouquet, you can arrange them across the bottom of the steamer basket and then place the lamb on top.
- No steam should escape from the joint where the steamer meets the pot. If necessary, you can seal the joint with plastic wrap. Either place the steamer on the pot, then tightly wrap the plastic around the full circumference of the joint; or drape a long piece of folded plastic wrap over the rim of the pot and then fit the steamer into place.
- You can try oven steaming instead of stove top steaming. Preheat your oven to 325° F (160° C). Wrap the lamb (shanks work especially well here) and veggies in parchment paper, then in aluminum foil. Place in the preheated oven for 2 to 3 hours, or until the lamb is tender enough to pull easily form the bone.