Lamb shank with Middle-Eastern spices - Proper man grub

22:50

This is ultimate man grub. A fat lamb shank, bulky like a gladiator’s guns, braised in stock and spices until it’s falling off the bone, tender enough to eat with a spoon. This would probably be the death row last meal for husband. At least he seems to choose it often if it is on the menu when we eat out. Which of course is much nicer than death row. I often (not on a daily basis) wonder how they manage to swallow a bite. I rather fear my otherwise dependable appetite might let me down at that point.

Lamb shank braise with Middle-Eastern spices on bed of rice

One of husband’s favourite places to eat this is a little stall at the Camden market. He gets the shank and I get a chicken shish. It’s all served with a massive flat bread, grilled tomato, salad and a big pile of saffron rice, just as it should be. Then we sit outside on the little scooter bikes that act as chairs next to a narrow table attached to a graffitied wall and munch away happily crouched over our Styrofoam trays.

I so much rather eat there than in a 2 Michelin starred restaurant with starched table cloths and snotty waiters, which is really convenient and also rather theoretical as we can’t afford Michelin starred meals.

I make lamb shanks quite often myself and my shanks are pretty damn good too. One of my favourite ways to do it is with middle-eastern spices served over rice very similar to the Camden market one. But this time I was fleetingly tempted by a more French style red-wine braised approach and a mushroom risotto. But in the end I thought merde and went with the middle-eastern way and served it with a lovely herby sabzi polo and a fattoush salad.

I used some of my smoked lamb stock from the organic Finnish smoked lamb leg that I cooked some time ago. I remember the night I cooked the stock, the whole house was smelling of smoked lamb. I made us a really quite lovely Risotto Primavera for dinner, but husband was poking the risotto trying to see if there was meat hiding in there somewhere, his eyes were searching the table and then he asked me if this actually was it? Or did I forget something and what was the smell about and what was cooking on the stove and why weren’t we eating it?!?

It’s like with the family dogs – you’ve got to give them a little bit of what you’re cooking and eating because they smell it in the air, and then they eat their dry food quite happily afterwards, not that there has ever been a lot of dry food for our dogs.

With the shanks though, at first I thought the smoky lamb stock was a mistake as I tasted the concoction. The smokiness didn’t really blend with the warmth of cumin and cinnamon which would have been quite predictable if I’d thought about it. But what wasn’t predictable is that after an hour and a half or thereabouts in the oven the tastes actually had come together. The end result was a delicious combination of middle-eastern sun and heat with a dark punch of Nordic smokiness. A bit like our marriage.

A bowl of Middle-Eastern Fattoush salad
Fattoush

Recipe: Middle-Eastern spiced lamb shanks


Oil
2 lamb shanks
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Arabic spicemix (optional)
Pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes (if you like heat)
Can of chopped tomatoes or 4 chopped fresh tomatoes
3 cups lamb stock
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a deep pan or Dutch oven. Fry the shanks until brown on all sides, remove to a plate. Fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes, add all the spices and fry for another couple of minutes. Return the lamb to the pan, add the tomatoes and stock, season and bring to boil. Cook in 175C oven for 1.5-2 hours depending on size of shanks until they are soft and tender. If the sauce is too thin cook uncovered for the last 20-30 min.

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