Lemon is our ingredient of the season! Today we’re cooking up a savory dish, and if you like this, you may want to check out our lemon pasta and chicken with preserved lemons.
The night before leaving for our big trip east, I roasted lamb shanks as a going away dinner. We were going to be away from Calder for about two weeks, and in just a few more days, Sarah’s off to Nepal! So something special was definitely in order.
Since we loved the creativity and flavor of the chicken with preserved lemons, Calder said we should just make that again (it was that good!). Instead, I decided to test another recipe from the Tagines & Couscous cookbook, and I’m so happy to report that we hit another home run!
Just as with the chicken dish, this recipe calls for marinating the meat before cooking it. Unlike the chicken dish, which required two hours of marinating, the lamb was supposed to be marinated for 6-8 hours. While I could handle two hours, and even thought it was convenient, six was too much for me. I absentmindedly didn’t read through this recipe until a couple of hours before I was to cook it, so there was no going back. We had to skip the marinating this time, and I think Sarah would even chime in to tell you that we were still swooning about our un-marinated lamb weeks later.
- 3-3 1/2 lbs lamb shanks (2 shanks = 3 lbs for us)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 Tbsp butter, divided
- 2 red onions, cut into wedges
- 8 oz. pitted prunes
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 8 oz. fresh figs
- 2 tart green apples, cored and cut into thick slices
- 2-3 Tbsp orange flower water
- 2 Tbsp runny honey
- leaves from a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- leaves from a small bunch of cilantro, chopped
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tsp course sea salt
- 1-2 tsp ground cumin seeds
- 1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped
- Small bunch of cilantro & parsley, chopped
- Place all marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend.
- Cut small incisions into the lamb with a sharp knife and rub the marinade well into the meat. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours, or as little as 2 if you're like us :-).
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Heat 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottom casserole dish. Add the lamb and brown it on all sides. Remove the lamb.
- Stir the onions and any leftover marinade into the hot oil. Add the prunes. Pour in 1 1/4 cups water and put the lamb back into the pan.
- Cover the casserole and place it in the oven for 2 hours.
- Towards the end of the cooking time, melt 3 Tbsp butter and a heavy-bottomed sauté pan. Add the apples to the butter and sauté until brown, but they can still be rather firm as they will continue to cook in the oven.
- Remove the lamb from the oven and place the cooked apples and fresh figs around the meat. Splash the orange flower water over the lamb and drizzle the honey over the meat and fruit.
- Return the dish to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, until the meat is so tender that it's almost falling off the bone.
- Sprinkle the fresh cilantro and parsley over the lamb shanks and serve with plain or buttered couscous.
Thinking about it now, I believe that the most challenging part of cooking either of this dishes is having all of the fresh ingredients on hand. Unfortunately, neither seem like something you could make on a whim, but both are so good, that they’re worth a trip to the grocery store.
There are so many components to this dish that we would have never developed on our own, from the combination of such strong flavors to the luxurious inclusion of prunes, figs, and apples. And there’s definitely no way we would have thought of adding orange flower water to a savory meat dish, but it works! If you don’t have the orange flower water, your fall-off-the-bone lamb will still taste delicious. On the other hand, if you do pick up the orange flower water and enjoy its aroma and flavor, you may want to try some pistachio and orange torrone next.
When summer began, I never expected that choosing lemons as our ingredient of the season would lead to such creative meat dishes, but I think that these late-summer dishes are going to inspire a whole fall of equally delicious meals!