I must admit to being quite smitten by this particular lamb dish… only quite recently plucked from the pages of Elizabeth David’s fabulous book, ‘French Provincial Cooking’. My copy is a fairly cheap Penguin-published paperback, which I’ve flicked through occasionally over the years, but in fact, have never really made anything substantial from. Happy to say that this was put to rights about a month ago. Continue reading →
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.
Fatteh Bil Lahme | Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze
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.
* Recipe from Claudia Roden’s ‘Arabesque’ Cookbook
Do you have any secret family recipes? Ones that are so intrinsically special that you refuse to share them with anyone?
This wonderful Middle Eastern-style rice dish (or at least something rather similar) was presented to us one lovely evening, by friends who had invited our family to dinner. I was in absolute awe of the spices and flavours that came through with each and every mouthful and was quietly desperate to find out the recipe, to be able to cook it again… and again… in the future. This recipe would be an absolute keeper! Initially I thought the refusal to share said-recipe was a little joke (as you do… when dishes are appreciated by guests with such gusto), but alas our hostess was completely serious and only deigned to pass on the names of one or two extra ingredients that weren’t obvious from just looking at or tasting the dish.
So I’ve spent years adapting, researching and playing around in the kitchen trying to replicate what we tasted that evening… and I think it’s pretty close (though possibly only because the original is now very much a distant memory)!
Sharing favourite recipes and ideas is at the heart of Gather and Graze, so I certainly won’t be keeping this one a secret from you. 😉 Enjoy!
In a large heavy-based saucepan, gently sauté the onion in olive oil until softened (about 10 minutes). Raise the heat a little, add the minced lamb and fry until browned. Now stir in the Ras El Hanout, the dried mint and season well with salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir for a minute or two, to coat the grains. Tip in the pine nuts, barberries, saffron threads (along with the water the saffron was soaking in), pomegranate molasses and chicken stock. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, before covering the pot with a lid. Allow to simmer away gently for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the liquid has all been absorbed and the rice is tender (adding a little more stock or hot water if necessary).
When ready to serve, scatter the top with chopped pistachios and fresh mint. See below for a few ideas on accompaniments to serve alongside the pilaf.
Notes on Cooking:
Suggested accompaniments for the Lamb Pilaf: Thinly sliced tomatoes and red onion, sprinkled with sumac on top. Chunks of cucumber, tossed with yoghurt, crushed garlic, lemon juice and S&P. Lightly dressed salad of rocket leaves.
Ras El Hanout is a classic North African mixed spice, usually containing between 10 – 30 different spices. It’s name means ‘Head of the Shop’ and is usually the very best spice mix to be found in the Souk. Some of the main spices it contains are paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander seed, cardamom seed, turmeric, fennel seed, black peppercorns and allspice.
Barberries are a prized Iranian ingredient – known as zereshk in Persian. They add a wonderful tart flavour to meat dishes, salads and sauces and look like little jewels dotted throughout the dish. I found dried barberries here in Australia (through The Essential Ingredient and also noticed that Herbies sells them in small packs). Advice online is to rehydrate them in cold water for approx 10 mins before using, though must say that I didn’t notice much of a change in their texture until they finally went into the hot stock. If you are unable to find barberries, feel free to use currants or sultanas instead.
Pomegranate molasses is a tangy syrup made up of boiled pomegranate juice and can be found in some supermarkets or in specialist Middle-Eastern grocery shops. It adds a beautiful sweet/sour taste when used fairly sparingly, a little like balsamic vinegar in Italian cuisine.
A completely unexpected delight which has stemmed from creating this little blog has been opening up my ‘WordPress Reader’ each morning to discover what my newly-found blogging friends from around the world have been creating in their own kitchens. Their musings, recipes and photos are at once delicious and provide more inspiration and encouragement than they can possibly imagine. For this, I thank you all dearly! You so frequently bring a smile to my face, illuminate light bulbs in my mind and bring calm to my heart in the knowledge that I’m not alone in this passion for all things food related. It’s like discovering a family out there, that I never new I had!
Each and every day, I think about how best to feed my own family – my two children are no longer toddlers, not quite teenagers, but certainly young enough to have determined palates that on the odd occasion will knock a dish down with a single bite. I do encourage them regularly to try new dishes and for the most part with considerable success, but I am forced to realise that my current reality of kitchen capers is not going to be as inspiring in it’s use of ingredients as I would necessarily like. Progress is made slowly, but surely… and for that I must, for the time being, be grateful. All in good time…
If I can encourage even a small number of families out there to give more thought as to how they nourish their children, I’ll be accomplishing what I set out to do… It’s hard not to become despondent at times when you see what others are placing into their supermarket trolleys or see the number of people queuing up for the drive-through of fast food outlets. I have a vivid and still quite sickening picture in my head of watching a toddler sit down, diagonally across from me, on a 9am internal flight within the USA and be handed a cheese-burger to eat (for his breakfast!?). Apart from being offended by the unnatural smell wafting through the cabin at that time of morning, I also felt a deep sense of anger and incomprehension towards the mother – she was allowing her poor innocent child to grow up believing this to be normal. I do realise that this child at least had something going into his stomach, which may not be a daily certainty for all the children of the world; but if getting up a little earlier to have breakfast at home wasn’t an option, perhaps a piece of fresh fruit or a granola/muesli bar from one of the other airport food outlets might have been a wiser choice.
Cooking at home and from scratch needn’t be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. With a little forward-planning and an understanding of which ingredients work well together, we can move towards a much healthier and flavour-rich way of eating. Our children deserve it… We also owe it to ourselves…
Our family enjoyed the following dish over the weekend just gone – I was proud of our eldest child who drizzled some of the yoghurt dressing over his lamb (hooray!), though the youngest opted for some tomato sauce instead (thankfully not so much for the lamb, but for the roasted kipfler potatoes that he’s still not quite sure if he likes…) C’est la vie!
In a small mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic and herbs. Season the lamb generously on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then rub all over with the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for at least a few hours or if possible overnight.
If, like me, you prefer to bring the lamb to room temperature before cooking, remove from the fridge approximately an hour in advance of when you wish to commence cooking.
Pre-heat the barbecue to about 220°C. Grill the lamb for a few minutes on each side until nicely coloured, then turn down the heat to 180°C and continue cooking for another 15 – 20 minutes (depending on the size of your lamb), or until cooked to your liking.
Rest the meat for approximately 10 minutes, before slicing.
Serve with Yoghurt Dressing, roasted potatoes/veggies and some lightly-steamed greens. A fresh salad and crusty bread would also be wonderful if you’re lucky enough to be heading into summer!
For the Yoghurt Dressing:
250g/1 cup Full-Fat Greek Yoghurt
½ cup Fresh Mint (Finely Chopped)
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Clove Garlic
Sea Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)
Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or two before serving to allow all the wonderful flavours to infuse the yoghurt.
Other cuts of lamb will work equally well in this recipe – just be sure to adjust the cooking time to the thickness and cut of your meat.
The choice of herbs is interchangeable as well – though I find that when grilling on the barbecue – thyme and rosemary (along with the garlic) combine so incredibly well with lamb.