I’ve always adored Moroccan food. Here’s my version of some delicious braised lamb shanks.
I think the spices really make this dish. Cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and saffron; just yum. The preserved lemon is such a nice addition too. The brightness and acidity it provides really plays well off of the rich lamb. Apricots add such a nice sweetness and contrast perfectly with the briny olives.
The best part is, you don’t even need a tagine to pull off this dish. The dutch oven works wonders here. You can even cook this entirely over the stove top if you wanted. As long as the lamb is browned well to start and braised low and slow, you’re in business.
This melt-in-your-mouth Moroccan lamb naturally goes well with some steamed couscous. I simply made mine with chicken broth and a pat of butter. The couscous is so good once it soaks up of those braising juices. Just so good.
- 1 ½ lbs bone-in lamb shanks (about 2)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- Vegetable oil, as needed
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 ½ inch piece ginger, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ preserved lemon, rinsed*
- 1C canned diced tomatoes in juices
- 1 large pinch saffron
- 3C low sodium chicken broth, or as needed
- ½ C dried apricots
- ¼ C whole green olives
- 1 ½ T light brown sugar, or to taste
- 1T butter
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 2T cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
- Bring lamb shanks to room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a dry pan, toast cumin and coriander seeds over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Grind in a coffee or spice grinder and set aside.
- Heat a dutch oven over medium-high. Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Coat pan lightly with oil and add in lamb shanks. Brown lamb well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove from the pan and set aside. Discard excess oil.
- While shanks brown, prepare the preserved lemon. Using a knife, separate the pith from the pulp. Thinly slice the pith and set aside. Finely chop the pulp, discarding any seeds and tough membrane.
- Add 2 tablespoons of fresh oil to the pan. Reduce heat to medium and add in the onion. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté 3-5 minutes or until translucent. Stir in ginger, garlic, ground spices, cinnamon stick and cloves. Sauté about 30 seconds. Stir in the preserved lemon pulp, tomatoes and saffron.
- Return lamb to the pan. Pour in enough chicken broth to go ¾ of the way up the shanks. Do not add extra salt at this point as the preserved lemons are quite salty. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and transfer the pot to the center rack of the oven.
- Braise for a total of 2-2 ½ hours or until meat is very tender. Check braising liquid every 30-60 minutes, adding water as needed, to maintain the level ¾ of the way up the lamb. When shanks are cooked, return the pot to the stovetop, remove lamb and cover to keep warm. Discard cinnamon stick and cloves.
- Add apricots, olives, lemon peel and cilantro to the braising liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 7-10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. If the sauce is a bit too sour from the lemon, add sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the flavor is balanced. To finish the sauce, stir in butter until incorporated. Serve lamb shanks with sauce over couscous, and garnish with cilantro.
- Preserved lemons can be found in specialty stores or online. I bought mine on amazon.com.