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Slow-Roasted Moroccan Mechoui

I’m really thrilled to bring you the next ‘Eid ul Adha recipe from Christine (Amina) Benlafquih, a journalist, wife and mother living in Morocco since 2000 who writes everything you want to know about Moroccan food at About.com. She has so many wonderful recipes, tips, and insights about Moroccan cuisine and culinary traditions that if you’re interested in this part of the world in the slightest, you should be following her articles, which she also posts on Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy the following recipe for Moroccan Mechoui by Christine as well as the background info that precedes it.

photo courtesy of Christine (Amina) Benlafquih
photo courtesy of Christine (Amina) Benlafquih 

Eid Al-Adha in Morocco is without the community-wide events and festivities that many Muslims in the West associate with their holidays. Rather, after the early morning eid prayer, Moroccans observe Eid Al-Adha, or L’Eid Al-Kabir (the big festival) by pulling up their shirt sleeves and getting down to the not-so-glamorous business of a sacrificial home slaughter. This sacrifice, incumbent on all Muslim head-of-households who can afford it, commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to follow through on a vision in which Allah commanded him to sacrifice his only, beloved son.  Before the act could be carried out, Allah spared the son’s life and a ram was ordered to be slaughtered instead.

Home slaughters are a lot of work, particularly for those families who choose to keep (and eat) the variety meats. Trotters, heads, stomachs and other offal all require considerable attention before they can be used for cooking. While food preparations of this nature may come around only once annually for many families, for others it is a regular part of a rural or homesteading lifestyle.

Once the actual slaughter is out of the way, extended families gather to eat, socialize and celebrate the special occasion. Moroccan tradition is to grill internal organ meat such as the liver and heart on the first day of eid, while the remainder of the lamb is left to age overnight. The next day the meat is butchered and divided according to Islamic tradition – at least one-third for charity, one-third for sharing with friends and family, and the remainder for the household which slaughtered.

Leg of lamb, a flavorful, tender cut, is often cubed and skewered for lamb brochettes, or it may be roasted whole, as called for in the recipe below. My own family usually enjoys the leg on the second day of eid.

Slow-Roasted Moroccan Mechoui

Ingredients

1 whole leg of lamb (or shoulder) on the bone, trimmed of fat

4 tablespoons soft unsalted butter 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, pressed

2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt

cumin

Directions

Preheat an oven to 250°F (120/130°C).

Make a dozen or so deep cuts in the meat with the tip of a sharp knife.  Combine the butter with the garlic, spices and olive oil. Spread the mixture over the entire leg of lamb, working some butter into the incisions.

Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast the lamb, basting hourly and resealing the foil each time, for 7 to 8 hours*, or until the juices run clear and the meat is tender enough to pinch off the bone.  If desired, remove the foil and crisp the skin under a broiler for a few minutes.

Transfer the lamb to a platter and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, pour the juices over and around the lamb. Serve salt and cumin on the side for dipping.

* Note: Small legs under 2 kg may finish cooking in six hours; large legs may take closer to nine hours. You can reduce average cooking time to between four and five hours by using a 350° F (180° C) oven temp.

For more photos of the Moroccan Mechoui, please visit this link.

More relevant links on Christine’s website: 

http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/ramadanspecialoccasions/tp/Eid_Al-Adha_Recipes.htm

http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/ramadanspecialoccasions/a/Eid_Al_Adha.htm

http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/moroccanfood101/a/Islamic-Slaughter-Zabihah.htm

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