lamb stew with harissa and acorn squash

these puns are harissa-ment

I’m getting sick of cooking every single meal – and I’m sure you are too! So, here is a dish that can be served multiple times (and it gets better as it sits, win win situation). 

Stew may not seem summery, but San Francisco summers are a fickle beast. During the day it may be hot, but in the evening the wind starts up and the temperature drops. Like a lot. Enter warming, spicy, and comforting stew. 

Have you cooked with harissa before? Harissa is a spicy and aromatic North African chile paste featured in a lot of Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan cooking. There are many versions of harissa, but it always includes hot chili peppers, garlic, and spices like cumin. 

While harissa is traditionally a paste, I like using the coarse spice blend from Whole Spice, which can be made into a paste by adding olive oil. Your best bet for finding harissa is in Middle Eastern markets, specialty gourmet stores, and the ethnic section of most grocery stores. Or order some online from Whole Spice! Now that we are at home and cooking more than ever, it makes a big difference to have some fabulous spice blends to reach for. 

Harissa pastes and powders have varying levels of spiciness, so taste your harissa before using and adjust accordingly. I use three tablespoons of the coarse spice blend, and I don’t find the stew to be very spicy. So you can add more or less harissa depending on your spicy-food tolerance. 

Get creative with the type of squash you use! You may or may not need to peel the squash, it really depends on the type. I didn’t peel the acorn squash because it cooks for a long period of time, so its soft and easy to eat. Delicata squash also has edible skin. Examples of squash that needs to be peeled are butternut, kabocha, or pumpkin. A quick google search can always help if you’re not sure whether to peel the squash or not.


4 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 red onions, halved and sliced 

6 garlic cloves, smashed

3 tablespoons coarse harissa spice, or paste

Salt and pepper

4 cups stock – I use homemade chicken stock, but any type would work!

3 cups of water

1 small acorn squash, seeds removed and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed, leaves chopped

yogurt, lime juice, or chopped preserved lemon for serving


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat, and when the pan is hot add olive oil. In two batches, brown the lamb pieces, about 10 minutes per batch. When the lamb is brown, remove from Dutch oven onto a large plate. 

Add the red onion and garlic to the Dutch oven and saute for five minutes until vegetables start to get some color. Add harissa and saute for another two minutes. Add stock and water to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Return the lamb to the pot, cover and bake for 1 hour. 

After stew has been in the oven for 1 hour, take it out, and add the uncooked squash and stir. Put the lid back on the Dutch oven and put it back in the oven for 1 hour.

After the stew has been in the oven for a total of two hours, remove from the oven.  Add the sliced kale leaves into the stew and stir to combine.

Put the stew back in the oven, uncovered, and cook for 20-30 minutes more. The sauce will reduce and the kale will be wilted.

You can either serve hot from the oven, or make it a day before you want to eat it. The flavors will get better as the stew sits, so this is a great meal to eat over a few days.

When ready to serve, top with chopped preserved lemon or lime juice, and a dollop of yogurt. 


Published by thespicylatke

Hi, I am Jessie! I work as an attorney by day, but on evenings and weekends, I’m busy working out or cooking in. I read a lot of cookbooks (maybe too many...) so this blog is a creation from the recipes percolating in my mind. Current favorites are Simple by Ottolenghi, Everyday Kitchen by Smitten Kitchen, and Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers.

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