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Fragrant lamb shanks with cummin and paprkia

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Back in the “olden days” nobody ate the shank part of the lamb, unless you were poor, because everyone seemed to believe the “cheap cut” wouldn’t taste good.

As I have learnt more and more about food over the years, I have come to the realisation that food today has benefited so much from the methods poor people, even many hundreds of years ago, used to use to not only make their food taste good, but also preserve it.

Take this as an example – many peasants in Italy could not afford to buy cheese to put on their dishes – so they ground their stale bread into crumbs, toasted them with a little olive oil (you can infuse them with other flavour too, like garlic and rosemary) and scattered them on top instead. If you haven’t tried this – it’s a definite must. It doesn’t taste like cheese, of course, but it’s a perfect alternative. It gives a beautiful texture to the dish with the crunch of the bread crumbs, but it also adds an excellent nutty flavour.

Meat really is no different. People with little money would take the pieces of the meat that no one else really wanted, like the lamb’s shank, and cooked them slowly – to make what would otherwise be tough meat, very tender.

Nowadays, lamb shanks are the “in” thing. Long cooking makes it melt-in-your-mouth – just incredible. Sadly now that demand has risen, the shank is no longer cheap – but well worth the money and the time to cook them.

I’m totally obsessed with Moroccan flavours at the moment – I think that’s why I came up with this. As soon as it comes to the boil, the smell of cinnamon, cumin and other spices just fills the house. So amazing!

Lamb shanks with cumin and paprika

Lamb shanks

 

  • 4 frenched lamb shanks
  • 1/3 cup of seasoned flour (salt and pepper)
  • 3 tsp Moroccan spice blend
  • 2 tsp of paprika
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, cut into thick slices
  • 5 button mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced
  • 1 400gm can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • 1/2 cup of chopped parsley

 

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees (c)

Place flour and salt and pepper in a large freezer bag. Put one shank in the bag and toss it around until coated with flour. Repeat for all shanks.

 

Heat a few good glugs of olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan until it’s hot. Cook the lamb shanks on all sides until they are browned, but not cooked. The browning process is about increasing flavour – not cooking.

Remove the lamb shanks from the pan and add a little more oil, if required. Add the onion to the pan, with a pinch or two of salt and pepper and sweat for about 2 minutes.

Add the garlic, Moroccan spice blend, paprika, cumin and cayenne to the pan and turn the heat down. Stir the spices for a minute or two, or until they start to release their flavour. Don’t let them burn, or they’ll go bitter.

Now add the canned tomatoes, stock, zucchini, mushrooms and capsicum and return the shanks to the pan. Cover, bring to the boil and then once boiling, place in the oven.

Cook for 1 1/2 to two hours. Check after 1 hours to see how the meat is progressing. To tell if it is ready – the meat should almost be falling off the bone. Once the meat is cooked, stir the parsley through – this gives everything a really nice lift.

Enjoy with some steamed rice, or cous cous.

 

If you like all the warming flavours of cinnamon (which is part of the Moroccan spice blend), paprika and cumin, this is a recipe for you. The cayenne gives it a little kick, so if you don’t like it a bit hot, leave it out.

As winter leaves us and spring arrives, what dishes are you sad to be saying goodbye to?

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