, Arabic for “sweet meat,” is a very popular dish in Algeria, especially during the month of Ramadan. The daylong fast is broken first with dates, then with mouthfuls of this unctuous and fragrant dish of tender lamb simmered with sweet fruits. Normally, no salt is added to the dish so as not to cause thirst during the next day’s fast. But you can add a little if you like. Other common spellings: l’ham lhalou; el ham lalou.
4 to 6 servings
- Stewing lamb, cubed — 2 pounds
- Cinnamon — 1/2 teaspoon
- Turmeric — 1/2 teaspoon
- Ground ginger — 1/2 teaspoon
- Oil or butter — 1/4 cup
- Water — 2 cups
- Saffron (optional) — a few strands
- Prunes — 1 cup
- Raisins — 1/4 cup
- Sugar — 1/4 cup
- Orange blossom water (optional) — 1-2 tablespoons
- Blanched, sliced almonds, toasted — 1/2 cup
- In a large bowl, mix together the lamb, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger. Heat the oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high flame and brown the lamb in batches, removing each batch to a plate before adding the next.
- Return all the browned meat to the pot and add the water and saffron. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the meat starts to get tender.
- While the meat is simmering, cover the prunes and raisins with hot water and set aside to let them plump up for at least 30 minutes.
- After the meat has been simmering for 45 minutes, drain the fruit and add it to the meat along with the sugar and the orange blossom water. Add a little more water if needed and simmer for another 30-40 minutes.
- Garnish with toasted almonds and serve with couscous, khoubz araby or rice.
- Use dried apricots instead of prunes. Experiment with different kinds of dried fruit for different flavors.
- Beef can be substituted for the lamb.
- The orange blossom water can be omitted, but it really adds a beautiful fragrance to the dish. It can be found in many Middle Eastern or Latino markets.