We love lamb and lamb shank is my favorite cut of meat. Its slow cooking works perfectly with all kinds of pulses and I especially enjoy it with a mixture of beans and some kind of dried fruit with lots of spices. I developed this dish using my experiences cooking both Moroccan and Indian foods and it turned out to be a huge success – perfect for a cold winter night. All it required was some plain Basmati rice, but feel free to add some salads or yogurt accompaniments. I made enough for two with extra chickpeas, but it easily could be increased to serve more. If I had made side dishes (I was lazy that night) my lamb shanks actually were large enough to have fed 4 people (well maybe not if one was my son!) if the meat was taken off the bone to serve. All of my spice measurements are approximate. I tend to be generous when I am actually measuring – never using a level measure when cooking as opposed to when I bake. Just go with it.
Lisa’s Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas
Yield: 2-4 servings
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
Ghee, Grapeseed or Canola oil (or a combination)
2 large lamb shanks (mine happened to have been “frenched”)
1/4 cup besan or gram flour (chickpea flour)
1/2 large onion sliced (or one medium)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
4-5 large garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ginger paste or grated ginger
Generous 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons tamarind paste
Kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper to taste
12 -14 whole pitted prunes
About 1.5 cups chicken stock
- Drain the chickpeas. Place in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 4 cups of water or stock and 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Bring to a boil uncovered. When the water has come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and allow to cook for 45 minutes. Any remaining liquid will be used in the final dish. I cooked the chickpeas in the Dutch oven I intended to use for the entire dish so I had one less pot to clean. I love to cook but I’m less excited about cleaning. The chickpeas can be prepared ahead or they can be used immediately.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. This could also be made on top of the stove, but I used the oven.
- While the chickpeas are cooking, take your lamb shanks and using a sharp knife, make several deep slits in the meaty parts. Take slivers of garlic and push them into the slits.
- Place the besan flour in a shallow dish large enough to hold the lamb shanks or place in a heavy duty plastic bag. Add salt and fresh-cracked black pepper to taste. Mix through. Add the lamb shanks one at a time and lightly dredge them in the mixture. There will be left-over flour but do not discard it. Nothing is wasted. In a heavy-duty skillet (I like cast iron), brown the lamb shanks on all sides in your choice of oil(s). I used a mixture of ghee and grapeseed oil because they have a high burn factor. I used about a quarter of a cup of oils; it will all get used.
- When the lamb shanks are nicely browned, place them in a Dutch oven along with the chickpeas and their liquid, tamarind paste, cinnamon sticks and prunes.
- In the pan used to brown the lamb shanks, add the onions and any unused garlic (chopped) to the remaining oil. If necessary, add some additional oil so that everything is lightly coated and won’t stick to the pan. Cook the mixture until the onion just begins to brown. Then add all of the spices and the left-over flour mixture. Stir for about 3 minutes or until the spices are fragrant. Be careful not to burn the mixture.
Add everything to the lamb and chickpeas and gently stir through. Now add the chicken stock. Cover the casserole and place in the oven. Cook for one hour. Then carefully uncover the pot (watch out for steam!) and turn the lamb shanks. I did not need to add any further liquid, but if your mixture looks dry, add a little more stock. Re-cover the pan and cook for one hour more. This can be made ahead and gently reheated. Serve over plain Basmati rice or serve with naan.