I love lamb and despite its abundance here in Albania, I rarely prepare it. Albanians use the term “lamb” and “sheep” interchangeably and as anyone who has eaten it knows, there is a big difference between a tender piece of lamb meat and an older piece of sheep meat. There is one solution for older meat however, and that is braising it. The slow simmering and stewing of meat in a flavorful and well seasoned broth will render even the toughest piece of meat tender. I love the rich and spicy flavors of Moroccan foods and they provide the perfect foil for braising.
This recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine and brings together the spicy and exotic flavors of northern Africa to make a meal that is sure to satisfy. Braising done properly takes time so this is the perfect meal to make on a cool and lazy weekend. As the meat braised and the flavors melded I found myself wishing it was dinnertime already. Serve the lamb on top of a bed of couscous or other grain so you can soak up all of the yummy juices.
HONEY BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 lamb shanks
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large white onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup whole almonds
2/3 cup honey
Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
- Heat the oil and butter in an 8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper.
- Add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning as needed, until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes.
- Add the raisins, allspice, black pepper, coriander, cloves, ginger, cayenne, saffron, and cinnamon sticks and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Return the lamb to the pot and nestle it between the onions and spices. Add the almonds, honey, and 3 cups of water.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lamb is very tender, about 3 1/2 hours.
- Serve over couscous and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.