To me this like a meal in North Africa. It's homey and exotic at the same time and something special. The mint yogurt is a personal option. This is a make ahead dish (up to two days)and the best side is couscous.
- 1 1⁄2 cups plain yogurt
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1⁄2 cup warm water
- 1⁄4 teaspoon saffron thread, crumbled
- 1 (2 1/2-3 lb) boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or more)
- 2 onions, thinly sliced (about 1 pound)
- 1 small lemon, ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (preferably Meyer)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 cup dried fig, stems trimmed, quartered lengthwise (about 4 ounces)
- 2 1⁄2 cups low sodium chicken broth (or more)
- Set strainer lined with double layer of cheesecloth over medium bowl.
- Place yogurt in strainer; cover and chill 3 to 5 hours to drain.
- Transfer yogurt to small bowl.
- Stir in mint; season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.).
- Place 1/2 cup warm water and saffron in small bowl; let stand at least 20 minutes to infuse.
- Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.
- Working in batches, cook lamb until brown on all sides, adding more oil as needed, about 5 minutes per batch.
- Transfer lamb to large bowl.
- Pour all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot (or add 1 tablespoon oil if dry); heat pot over medium heat.
- Add onions; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add lemon, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne.
- Stir 1 minute.
- Add saffron mixture; stir, scraping up browned bits.
- Add tomatoes with juice, figs, and lamb with any juices to pot.
- Stir to coat.
- Add 2 1/2 cups broth.
- Bring stew to boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed if dry, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper (Can be made 2 days ahead.
- Cool slightly.
- Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and chill, skim off any fat.).
- Bring stew to simmer, thinning with more chicken broth if necessary.
- Divide stew among 6 plates; top each serving with dollop of minted yogurt.