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A fine, delicately flavoured stew that will not fail you. It’ll most likely delight your family and guests in flavour, and you by ease of preparation.

Traditionally Middle Eastern cooks make ‘ACCOUB stew – not Fennel stew. Fennel grows wild in the area, in wispy stalks – not bulbous as we see it on supermarket produce shelves – and is nibbled on, seasonally, in the spring when it is bought from peasant-folk displaying their produce in city markets; better still, when on a country-side-outing, one comes across a field of swaying fennel, plucks a plant, peels its stem and munches on its crisp juicy flesh!

Similar to Fennel, ‘ACCOUB is also indigenous to the area. It is a humble thistle that appears within niches of hilly slopes in the spring, at most for a three week period; its flavour is delicate as fennel and is a highly prized delicacy. As ‘ACCOUB is not available in the Western world, we are allowed to mimic its flavour by using Fennel instead.

Delightful are the varied practices of far and wide cultures. A foreigner observing a Middle Eastern woman working on a heap of ‘ACCOUB may say, “Why bother?”; for ‘ACCOUB does not only have to be carefully handled to avoid being jabbed by its prickles, it also stains the hands while nimbly preparing it for cooking. Kudos for our differences!

1 kg (2 pounds) cubed lamb or goat – preferably shank cut
1 onion, 1 carrot
2 large fennel bulbs
1 large onion, diced
50 mL (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
7 mL (1 1/2 tsp) salt
2 mL (1/2 tsp) black pepper
2-3 lemons

Cover meat generously with water (about 5 cups), add onion and carrot and bring to a boil. Skim off frothy layer. Cover and simmer over very low heat until tender. Spoon the meat onto a plate discarding the onion and the carrot.

Cut off the greenish wisps of the fennel. Slice fennel into bite-size pieces. Wash and drain. In a cooking pot, fry diced onion in oil until softened. Add fennel and sauté for five minutes. Add the meat, cover with meat stock, add salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. Add lemon juice to taste.

Serve with rice.
Makes 6 – 7 servings