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the goods

  4-6 lamb shanks (about 5 lb / 2 kilo)

1 tblspn salt flakes

1 tspn cardamom

1 tspn white pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

1 bottle red wine

8-10 shallots, peeled

1 cinnamon stick

20 dates, pitted

15 fresh figs (small black mission figs are best)

1 bulb garlic

2-3 quinces, peeled, halved and cored

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (substitute with 2 tblpsn tomato paste if necessary)

1/2 cup honey

2 cups water

salt and pepper


you will need:

  • large stock pan

time: 30 minutes active

2 hrs stove top

(overnight resting)

4 hrs braising in oven





lamb shanks braised with figs, quinces and dates

As slow and sexy as watching all six hours of  'Pride and Prejudice' in one sitting.

These shanks are rubbed with spiced salt, simmered in wine and finshed off with a long slow stretch in the oven.

The figs and dates surrender to the sauce, the quinces and the shanks reach that fabulous fall-apart stage at about the same time.

And this pot is endlessly forgiving; the longer you give it, the better it gets.

I let the salted shanks ponder their future in the fridge for 2-3 days before I started cooking them.

The whole affair was put together and simmered on the stove for a couple of hours.

Let it chill, skim off the fat and pop it in the oven for 4 hours.

It was ready to serve, but I wasn't ready to eat it. It spent another night in the fridge, another layer of fat was skimmed and then it was reheated and served with a mountain of roasted root vegetables and thirsty bread to mop up that sensational gravy.

As a general preface, I might mention that I get my butcher to chop the top 3 inches off the shanks and I add them to the pot, otherwise I tend to find that the tops stick out of the liquid and wind up a little wizened, this way they loiter in the sauce and are handy for second helpings.

mix the salt, cardamom and pepper, pat the shanks dry and rub them with the salt. Place them in a covered dish and let them sit in the fridge 2-3 days.

heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large braising pot. Brown the shanks all over, in batches if necessary. Remove the shanks to a plate.

add the wine to the pot (carefully...there'll be some sizzle when the wine hits the hot oil). Scrape around a bit to de-glaze the pan, add the cinnamon stick and let everything bubble away and reduce by about 1/3

slice the galic bulb in half across the middle and add it to the pot, add the figs (remove the stems), pitted dates, quince halves and shanks.

mix the honey, pomegranate molasses and water, pour into the pot. Make sure that, at the very least, the shanks are covered in liquid. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to the lowest. Simmer for 2 hours. Do not lift the lid. Allow to cool and chill overnight.

skim as much fat as you can the without disturbing or crushing the fruit. Place in an oven which has been pre-heated to 375f / 190c. Cook for 30 minutes then reduce the heat to 300f / 150c and cook 2 hrs. Remove from the oven and turn or baste the shanks, taste the sauce. Add upto 1 tspn salt and pepper then leave lid slightly ajar and return to the oven for a further hour.

the shanks are ready to serve, but you can also chill them overnight and remove any fat and then reheat another hour in a slow oven when you are ready to serve them. By now the sauce will have thickened to a rich liquour and there will be a fruity spiciness which will have permeated everything.