Fennel is a wonderful vegetable, with a distinctive anise flavor, which is one of my favorites. Its fresh flavor pairs wonderfully with the relatively heavy lamb cut. To enhance this anise flavor, I’ve added fennel seeds and a bit of Ouzo, the Greek anise flavored liquor.
The addition of preserved lemon and black olives rounds up the flavors and brings to minds the wonderful North African Tajin dishes. The addition of orange blossom honey is very subtle, but adds aroma and a hint of sweetness. The slow braising in the oven brings all these wonderful flavors together, to form a tasty and aromatic dish. I’m sure you’ll love the dish once you’ll try it.
* If you’ve tasted fresh fennel and found the anise flavor too overwhelming for your taste, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the mellow flavor after braising. In this case, you can also omit the fennel seeds and Ouzo.
* If you can’t find fresh fennel, young celery hearts, celeriac or artichoke can be wonderful substitutes.
* I served the dish with plain couscous (see THIS recipe for instructions). Another option is to serve the stew as is, with fresh crusty bread on the side.
* I also added fresh fennel slaw on the side. Check THIS post for the recipe.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2 ½ hours
1 large fennel head
3 Tbs olive oil
1.6 lbs (750 grams) lamb shoulder, bone in
3 garlic cloves, cut in half
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed (optional)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup white wine
2 Tbs Ouzo or any anise flavored liquor (optional)
1 cup beef or chicken stock
A few drops of hot sauce
½ large preserved lemon, cut into wedges
1 pickled hot red chili pepper
10-12 salt cured black olives
2 Tbs honey, preferably orange blossom
1. Trim the fennel and cut into thick wedges. Keep some greens for garnish.
2. Heat the oil in a large shallow pot, over medium-high heat. Add the meat and fry until golden brown on both sides. Add the garlic and fry lightly.
Add the fennel and sprinkle with salt, pepper and fennel seeds. Cook for 2 minutes. Mix the wine, ouzo, stock and hot sauce and pour on top. Add the preserved lemon, chili pepper and olives and pour the honey on top. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
3. Preheat the oven to 250F (120C). Place the pot in the oven and braise for 1 hour. Uncover and return to the oven for 1 hour, basting the meat occasionally, until the meat almost falls off the bones and the fennel is soft but still keeps its shape. Garnish with fennel greens and serve.