Spicy Lamb and Chickpea Chili

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I’m sorry, is it May? Is Memorial Day not next weekend? Was it not a beautiful 76 degrees on Saturday? Then why, pray tell, was I shivering down to my bones On Sunday in Grand Army Plaza attending Food Truck Rally (a tad disappointing in truck turnout but man, that lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound was tasty). It was chilly the last two days.  The kind of chilly that I don’t expect on May 20-something, hence why I was in a sundress and a ripped up old denim jacket on Sat the event. I came home so cold that I had to put on sweat pants and a hoodie and crawl under my covers where I remained for an hour until I felt sufficiently warmed enough to brave going to the grocery store. I wore jeans and a coat this time.

The recipe for chili from Eating Well Magazine is not your average chili. Yes, like most chilis it is a mixture of beans and meat in a tomato base sauce with a certain level of spice, but comparisons to average chili stop there. One bite into a bowl of this chili transported me to, I don’t know, a road-side tea stall in Morocco or Algeria. I am drinking mint tea from a small, painted glass container, men in linen tunics are discussing something very important in loud tones and chain-smoking hookah next to me. Motorcycles, scooters, bicycles and pedestrians walk past on their way to destinations unknown. And yes, I realize that this is quite a vivid image to erupt from just a bowl of chili. I attest this transformative power to the spices in the dish, namely the harissa. Harissa is a North African chili paste with coriander and cumin seeds. Mixed with the savory lamb and the plump little chickpeas, the harissa turns this chili into something exotic yet healthy, hearty and pretty quick to put together – just what I needed to warm me up on this super chilly mid-May-day. Very cold May day. Cold. In May.

Of course, just to teach me a lesson, today we New Yorkers are literally living in a tropical climate with humidity at almost 70% and 80-degree temperatures. Serves me right for complaining I guess.


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Lamb and Chickpea Chili

Adapted from Eating Well Magazine, copyright 2011. Full recipe here.

True be told I have made this recipe twice so far. The original recipe called for 1/2 ground turkey and 1/2 ground beef. I, being the type of person to “scan” recipes rather than “read them thoroughly” didn’t see that the first time around and went all lamb, which I preferred. The first time around I also went with chili powder rather than harissa, a substitution Eating Well suggested and I felt the dish sorely lacked. So below is the recipe with all lamb and no chili substitutions. Trust me – seek out harissa. It will be worth the effort. Also, I would double this recipe if I were you – it makes a great lunch to take to work. Active time: 30 minutes, serves 4.

Ingredients –

1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces ground lamb

1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed

1 tablespoon harissa

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add lamb, turkey and salt and cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have released their liquid and are beginning to break down, about 4 minutes more. Add chickpeas, harissa and cinnamon and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Serve garnished with cilantro.


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