Slow cooked lamb shanks, oven braised with figs and oriental spices is comfort food at it's finest. If you like hearty meals that can be prepared especially days ahead, then this should be your go-to lamb shank recipe.
Who doesn't like a plate of lamb shank perfectly tender, with the meat melting away and falling off the bone. Even better, when they are sitting in a rich flavourful sauce that took no effort to make. Lamb shank is one of these popular braising dishes, that are fail proof if you follow a simple recipe like ours.
When you add love and care and give plenty of time to these shanks, they reward you with fork tender meat and a rich deep braising liquid.
Best part, once all the ingredients have been added to the pot, you are free for a good 2.5 hours while they do their own thing. So pour yourself a well deserved glass of wine and enjoy all those beautiful aromas coming out from the oven.
Follow our straight forward recipe to make these oriental oven braised lamb shanks! Trust me, it will turn out to be your all time favourite comfort meal!
WHAT ARE LAMB SHANKS?
Lamb shanks are from the lower leg of a lamb and always consist of a bone surrounded by meat. The meat is very tough hence ideal for only braising in a liquid to release the maximum flavour from the bone and to tenderise the meat.
The forequarter shank, is smaller than the hindquarter shank, hence you need to keep that in mind if you want to serve one whole shank per person.
Besides the lamb shanks, you need the following ingredients:
Mire Poix mire poix are the vegetables used for roasting or braising meat. They consist of carrots, onion, celery and garlic
Tomato paste is used to add depth and colour to the braising liquid.
Stock & Wine a light chicken stock or beef stock and an inexpensive red wine to braise the shanks with.
Figs dried figs are great as they can be braised with the shanks until they are cooked. If you use fresh figs, add them only for the last 30 minutes.
Spices & Herbs cinnamon, star anis, cardamom, clove, cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, thyme, rosemary and fresh chilli turn the braising liquid into an oriental feast.
Lemon lemon peel add a hint of tanginess to balance out the sweetness of the figs or use preserved lemons instead.
If you feel these seem to be a lot of ingredients, you can cut back on some of the spices but I assure you, all the ingredients listed above work beautifully together and don't overpower the lamb or any of the other flavours.
HOW TO COOK LAMB SHANKS
If you follow the recipe and opt for 4 lamb shanks, you need a wide ovenproof pot with a lid. Start by heating up the pot on high heat. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and sear from all side giving as much colour to the meat as possible.
Remove the shanks and add the mire poix. Roast the vegetables for 3-4 minutes and add the tomato paste. Roast together for a further 4 minutes and add all the spices and herbs inclusive of the fresh chillies.
Deglaze the pot with the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon releasing all the roasting flavours before adding back the shanks to the pot.
Cover the shanks with chicken stock and lastly add the lemon peel, dried figs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring all to a simmer on high heat and cover with a lid.
Place the pot in a pre-heated oven at 160°C (320°F) and cook for 2 ½ hours. The stock inside the pot should simmer gently. Check occasionally and adjust the temperature if required.
After the time is up, take out the pot from the oven and carefully remove the lid (it will be hot so don't forget to use a kitchen towel or oven mitts!). Now with a fork, check if the lamb shanks are cooked - they should literally fall off the bone when you twist the fork slightly.
Remove the shanks, vegetables and spices from the pot and reduce the braising liquid to ⅓rd. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if required.
Add the figs, lemon, chillies and the lamb shanks back to the oriental braising liquid and garnish with mint and coriander leaves.
When it comes to lamb shanks, even though it is one of the tastiest braising dishes, they don't necessarily always look pretty on a plate! That's why I like to leave them in the braising pot itself when serving it for a family meal. However, when we have guests coming over, I do like to present the dish without the bone.
To plate up, I prefer removing the bone and serving the meat over soft polenta with a side of sautéed spinach and a generous drizzle of the delicious braising liquid - it tastes just divine!! Or serve it with our polenta cake and spring vegetable recipe, it is great to make ahead.
the leftover braising vegetables can be eaten together with the lamb shanks. Otherwise they also add great flavour to bakes like lasagne or can be used in sauces like Bolognese.
if the lamb shanks are still tough increase the cooking time. Make sure the braising liquid is hot enough and simmering lightly. They will eventually be fork tender.
cooked lamb shanks should be eaten within 3 days. If kept frozen, you can store them for up to 3 months.
Feel free to use non alcoholic red wine, it is widely available in grocery stores. Otherwise use a beef or lamb stock which also helps adding colour to the braising sauce
If you loved this recipe the you should try our slow cooked lamb shoulder too, another great family meal.
There's never a bad time for oven braised lamb shanks as far as we're concerned, so let us know how you go in the comments below!
Braised Lamb Shanks with Figs and Spices
- large ovenproof pot with lid
- kitchen tongs
- fine sieve (strainer)
- 4 lamb shanks about 400g (0.9 lb) each
- 2 carrots peeled and chopped
- 2 brown onions peeled and chopped
- 1 celery stick chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 red chillies
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 rosemary sprigs
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anis
- 5 green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 100 millilitre red wine
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 200 gram dried figs
- 1 lemon
- salt, pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- Heat up a large pot on high flame and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and sear from all sides in the pot.
- Remove the shanks from the pot and add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic. Roast the vegetables for 3-4 minutes in the remaining olive oil and add the tomato paste.
- Roast together for a further 4 minutes and add all the spices and herbs inclusive of the fresh chillies.
- Deglaze the pot with the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon releasing all the roasting flavours. Now add the shanks back inside the pot and cover with the chicken stock. Lastly add the lemon peel, dried figs and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Bring to a simmer on high heat and cover with the lid.
- Place the pot in a pre-heated oven at 160°C (320°F) and cook for 2 ½ hours. The stock inside the pot should simmer gently. Check occasionally and adjust the temperature if required.
- After the time is up, take out the pot from the oven and carefully remove the lid (It will be hot!! so don't forget to use a kitchen towel or oven mitts). Use a fork to check if the lamb shanks are cooked. They should literally fall off the bone when twisted with the fork.
- Remove the shanks, vegetables and spices. Reduce the braising liquid to ⅓. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if required. Add the figs, lemon, chillies and the lamb shanks back to the pot. Garnish with mint and coriander leaves before serving.