Try the following braised lamb recipe for the Passover / Pesach festival. Each braised lamb recipe I have seen in the Sephardic-style uses exotic spices as well as leeks, one of the typical vegetables used by Sephardim in their cooking, but there are many variations in the ingredients that are used with each braised lamb recipe.

Lamb recipes are a typical part of many Sephardic Passover / Pesach Seders. Sephardim (alternate spelling: Sefardim; plural form of "Sephardi" or "Sefardi"; descriptive form: "Sephardic" or "Sefardic") are those Jews whose ancestors came from Spain and/or Portugal and who have settled in many southern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries since the late 15th century, as well as in North America and the Americas in general. However, according to the Mishnah Talmud, it is not permitted to roast a lamb for the Passover / Pesach Seder since in biblical Temple times in Israel, the paschal lamb was only permitted to be slaughtered in the Temple in Jerusalem, roasted, and then eaten at a Passover / Pesach Seder in Jerusalem. It became customary in some places outside Jerusalem to not eat any kind of roast meat at a Passover / Pesach Seder, least one might be eating roast meat that was brought from Jerusalem. In other places outside Jerusalem, it was thought not to be likely that the roast meat one was eating at the Passover / Pesach Seder came from Jerusalem, and so it was permitted to eat roast meat in those places. The great 12th century Rabbi Moses Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon in Hebrew, also known by his acronym as the "Rambam", in [Ĥametz u-Matzah 8:11] quotes our Mishnah Talmud almost word for word: "Where it is accepted practice to eat roast meat on the night of Pesaĥ one may do so, but where this is not accepted practice one may not do so and this is a decree of the sages so that people should not think that it is paschal lamb [that they are eating]. However, everywhere it is forbidden to eat roast lamb [at the Seder service]." The "Shulchan Arukh" [Oraĥ Ĥayyim 476:1] also quotes this law ad verbatim (word for word). However, "The Tur" [Oraĥ Ĥayyim 476] is more circumspect. It says that one may not eat a lamb that has been roasted whole over a spit. It also points out that the Talmud of Eretz-Israel [Pesaĥim 28a] prohibits the eating at the Seder service of anything that requires ritual slaughter - even fowl! Since this is not echoed in the Babylonian Talmud it is not accepted halakhah (not accepted as Jewish religious law). Today, one should avoid eating roast lamb at the Passover / Pesach Seder service.

Based on the above-mentioned religious reasons, Sephardim do not roast lamb, but instead use other cooking methods such as braising lamb as found in the following braised lamb recipe.

Slowly Braised Lamb Recipe (Preparation time: 30 minutes; Cooking time: 5 1/2 Hours)

1 boned shoulder of spring lamb, about 3 1/2 pounds (1.59 kilograms), rolled and tied
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped leeks
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup chicken or veal stock
1/2 cup dry white wine, kosher for Passover
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 sprigs fresh tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
Sprigs of parsley for garnish

Instructions for the Slowly Braised Lamb recipe:

  1. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius or Centigrade).
  2. Heat the oil in a casserole large enough to hold the lamb.
  3. Brown the lamb on all sides over medium heat; it should take at least 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add the onions and leeks to the casserole and sautée over medium-low heat until they are tender and just turning golden.
  6. Stir in the garlic.
  7. Return the lamb to the casserole and add the stock, wine, lemon juice, tarragon and scallions.
  8. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven.
  9. Bake the lamb for five hours; by then it should be extremely tender.
  10. Remove the lamb from the casserole.
  11. Strain the sauce into a heavy saucepan.
  12. Skim off as much fat as possible.
  13. Place the solids in a blender or food processor along with 1 tablespoon of the minced parsley.
  14. Purée, adding a little of the sauce if necessary.
  15. Add this purée to the sauce, reheat and check seasonings.
  16. Remove the strings from the lamb.
  17. Slice the roast down the middle the long way, then cut it into chunks.
  18. Layer the meat into a bowl or loaf pan that holds 5 to 6 cups, then unmold onto a warm serving platter.
  19. Sprinkle the remaining minced parsley over the top, garnish the platter with parsley sprigs and serve, with the sauce on the side.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

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