Lamb shanks are really full of flavour and very tender when properly cooked. I don’t eat meat very often but once in a while I really crave falling-off-the bone lamb shanks.
So when I saw some beautiful shanks at the butcher’s recently I was inspired to make my simple slow-cooked lightly spiced lamb shanks with prunes, again, and with rice of course because I’m Persian and Persians have a serious love affair with rice!
If you aren’t a big fan of rice you can serve these shanks with saffron-flavoured mashed potatoes and a tangy green salad like my herby, garlicky, lemony romaine lettuce salad. In this case you can skip the fried potato cubes.
To make saffron mashed potatoes all you need to do is add a bit of ground saffron soaked in a tablespoon of warm milk for a couple of minutes to your mashed potatoes. The difference just a little saffron makes is unbelievable!
Prunes are rather sweet and I don’t like this dish particularly sweet so I only add a few to give a bit of zing and sweetness to the sauce. I like to strain the sauce after the shanks are cooked through a sieve so the sauce has a smooth silky texture but if that’s too much hassle you can skip that stage. It will be just as delicious and no one will be any wiser!
The sauce for the shanks in this recipe is very delicately spiced. Just a little turmeric, a bay leaf, a few cloves of garlic and some peppercorns (that you will discard later). Turmeric is a wonder spice and the base of most Persian spice mixes. It is believed to have lots of health benefits. You can add other spices according to your preference if you like a stronger spicy flavour. A bit of cinnamon, a little cumin, a hint (or a lot) of chilli powder, paprika all would be quite nice. Just be brave and do your own thing!
The day I made these shanks I also made a spiced rice dish from Tabriz. That’s where my parents came from. The dish is called adviyeh polo in Persian (or aduva pilo as they pronounced it in their native Azarbaijani language. Aduva pilo is a perfect side to these shanks. It’s delicately perfumed with cinnamon, allspice, cumin, rose petals, cardamom, saffron and a few other spices. Plain rice is excellent too.
Like most Persian cooks I rarely use the oven for Persian dishes. Instead I use the hob. I slow-cooked the shanks on very low heat on the hob but you can use a slow-cooker if you wish. Put the shanks in after searing with all the other ingredients and leave it there for as long as eight hours.
For the shallow-fried potato cubes you can use any kind of potato that you normally use for making chips or fries. I used “dirty potatoes”. They fried to a gorgeous golden colour and tasted fabulous. Were crispy too.
To serve two people you will need the following ingredients:
For the shanks:
For the shallow-fried potatoes