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North African Home Cooking

Tomato Stewed Lamb

Ingredients
Lamb (on the bone): 7-8 pieces
Onion: 1, diced
Tomatoes: 3-4 large, ripe tomatoes or 2 cans of boiled tomatoes; crush by hand
Garlic: 2 cloves
Rosemary: 1 pinch
Consommé: 3 teaspoons
Salt: 1 teaspoon
Olive oil: 3 tablespoons


Slice garlic and fry in olive oil (reduce heat to ensure the garlic does not scorch); add the lamb and fry. 

I learned this recipe from a woman in a small village in northern Africa. I met her many years ago when I went to Africa to report on the Paris-Dakar Rally. The beauty of this recipe is you just put everything into the pot and simply let it cook so, it’s I often use it when I’m camping. In Africa, they cook in an earthenware pot, but to recreate it here, I’ve found a Dutch oven works best.

By simmering the dish for one or two hours, the meat will gently fall off the bones. Serving the lamb on top of couscous seems to be the standard in Africa, but it’s also great as a spaghetti sauce.

In north Africa, meat means mutton. Apart from Hokkaido, there isn’t a long tradition of eating mutton in Japan but, in the whole region from Mongolia to Turkey and into north Africa, mutton is the meat standard. And if you’re eating mutton, the herb you have to have is rosemary. The sweet, fresh fragrance goes really well with the meat.

It’s easy to grow rosemary in a planter on an apartment balcony, too—it keeps away bugs and has beautiful purple flowers. It can also be placed in the bath for a fragrant soak, so it’s a dynamic plant really worth growing.


Add onion, tomatoes and rosemary to the meat; simmer until meat is soft enough to fall off the bones; add consommé and salt to taste. 

Recently there has been a bit of a mutton boom in Japan, largely because of its reported effectiveness in dieting. The idea is, because mutton fat melts at a high 44°C, it isn’t absorbed into the body. Mutton protein also contains three to 10 times more L-camatine, an amino acid noted for burning fat, than beef and pork. But because of mutton fat’s high melting point, it’s also said it coagulates easily and too much can result in an upset stomach.

In Mongolia there is the saying, “If you eat mutton, don’t sleep lying face down,” because the cold floor will cool the stomach. But for me, this is the perfect dish to have with a nice, cold beer—there’s no better combination.

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