Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks are one of the ultimate winter comfort foods, in my opinion. I’ve cooked them a number of ways over the years and enjoyed each and every one of them, but today it was a Middle-Eastern flavour I was craving, so decided to improvise and adapt on a range of recipes in a beloved cookbook of mine – Claudia Roden’s ‘Arabesque’.
‘Fatteh’ / ‘Fatta’ is a general name for a range of dishes that have a layer of toasted flat-bread soaked in stock/sauce at the bottom and a layer of yoghurt on the top. Claudia gives a couple of versions in her book – one with poached chicken and another with stuffed eggplants. All well and good, but surely no match for melt-in-the-mouth lamb shanks!
This is by no means a mid-week, speedily-cooked dinner. It requires a long lazy weekend afternoon of hanging out in the kitchen… though there’s plenty of time once the shanks are on cooking, to read the paper or play boardgames with the kids.
I can’t stress enough how delightful this dish was to sit down to on a winter’s night, though please read my cooking notes at the end of this post for one final little thought…
Fatteh Bil Lahme
(Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Large Onion (Thickly Sliced)
- 2 Cloves of Garlic (Chopped)
- 4-6 Free-Range Lamb Shanks
- 2 x 400g Tins Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- ½ Teaspoon Ground Allspice
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses
- 250g/1 Cup Natural Yoghurt
- 2 Teaspoon(s) Crushed Dried Mint
- 2 Cloves Garlic (Crushed)
- 3 Thin Lebanese/Pitta Breads
- 1 x 400g Tin Chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
- Handful of Fresh Mint (Chopped)
- 40g/4 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
In a large Dutch Oven (or a large deep saucepan with lid), cook the onion over medium heat in the olive oil (with a little salt) until softened. Add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two more. Place the lamb shanks into the pot and brown slightly on all sides, before adding the tomatoes, spices, salt and pepper, pomegranate molasses and enough boiling water to just cover the shanks. Cover and simmer for approximately 2 – 2½ hours, until the lamb is practically falling off the bone. Take the lamb shanks from the pan and remove all meat from the bones.
While the lamb is braising, mix together the yoghurt, crushed garlic and dried mint with a pinch of salt and set it aside for later. It is best if this is at room temperature when you are ready to serve.
Toast the lebanese/pitta breads in the oven, or under the grill until crisp and light brown.
In a large serving dish, break up the toasted bread into pieces and scatter them across the bottom of the dish.
Spread the chickpeas over the top of the bread and then layer the shredded lamb over the top of this.
Scoop a number of ladlefuls of the tomato/onion sauce that the lamb was cooking in to fully coat all of the ingredients beneath.
Cover the dish with foil and place into a pre-heated 170°C oven for about 20 minutes until heated through.
While the dish is in the oven, toast the pine nuts carefully in a small frypan until golden. Set aside for the moment.
When you are ready to serve, pour the yoghurt over the top of the dish and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and fresh mint. Serve with plain basmati rice.
- Our family wasn’t entirely convinced that having a layer of toasted (yet now soggy) bread underneath the dish was the way to go. Next time we’ll make some homemade lebanese flatbreads and serve them on the side… perfect for mopping up all the delicious sauce! Apart from that, the dish was superb and enjoyed by all.
PS. Apologies for the photos – night time shots with artificial light are not ideal, but if the photos weren’t taken at dinnertime it really wouldn’t have been looking quite so pretty by the following morning.