I sort of started a tradition of bad puns in lamb shank posts last year, so it would be a shame not to carry on with that. Besides… The Boy isn’t even home tonight, so no one has to listen to him groaning loudly over my terrible punnage. :)
This is a recipe I first encountered in an issue of Cooking Light, though back then it was a stew. Over time, I’ve adapted it bit by bit, first by switching over to lamb shanks instead of cubed lamb stew meat, and then by adding a pinch of saffron to the sauce and a dusting of cumin to the lamb before it browns for a little extra Middle Eastern flair. The essential character of the dish remains unchanged, though – there’s a rich sauce flavoured with sweet-and-sour pomegranate molasses, fall-off-the-bone tender lamb, and a vibrant punch of mint and cilantro stirred in right at the end to cut through the richness.
The best part of making this dish is that the shanks make it swank enough for a casual dinner party, but it’s still simple and homey enough (not to mention, affordable enough) to make for a simple weekend dinner.
I usually serve these shanks on top of saffron-infused couscous pilaf. Either the fine-grained North African style and the larger pearl-sized Israeli couscous will do, so just go with what’s easiest for you – personally, I’m quite partial to the toothsome grains of the Israeli style, especially in saucy dishes like this one. Regardless of which kind of couscous I’m using, the technique remains the same: prepare per package directions using a combination of half chicken broth and half water, along with a generous pinch of crumbled saffron threads and a dash of turmeric.
Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate and Chickpeas
Adapted from Cooking Light
6 lamb shanks, approx 3/4 lb each
1 tbsp ground cumin
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped red onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 carton (900ml) low-sodium beef broth
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp crumbled saffron threads
2 cups sliced carrots
1 (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup each chopped fresh mint and cilantro
Dust shanks evenly with ground cumin, and season generously with salt and pepper.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven set over medium high heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add shanks and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides (make sure not to crowd the pan – if your Dutch oven isn’t large enough, work with batches of two or three shanks at a time instead) Remove shanks from pot and set aside.
Add remaining tbsp olive oil and onion to the pot, and saute until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 1 minute longer.
Add broth, pomegranate molasses and saffron to the pot, scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits left behind. Return shanks to the pot. Bring bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 2 hours or until lamb is just tender.
Stir in carrot and chickpeas. Leave pot uncovered and continue simmering for another 45 minutes, or until lamb is very tender and pulling away from the bone. Remove from heat. Stir in the mint and cilantro, and add more salt or pepper if seasoning needs to be adjusted. Serve immediately over hot couscous or rice.