I always seem to get over excited when I shop at the market and come home laden with produce. The end result is that I do a lot of cooking to stock the fridge and freezer, an easy task in winter when slow cooked dishes and hearty braises are the best kind of comfort food. This Moroccan lamb shanks recipe feeds four if you get large shanks. If you can only get small ones, use four. I used organic Saltbush Dorper lamb. Dorper sheep do not need to be shorn reducing the stress on the animals and their open range grazing on saltbush and native grasses gives them ‘natural seasoning’. The spices and mougrabieh (giant couscous) should be relatively easy to find these days with most supermarkets, good delis and specialty stores stocking them. Ras el Hanout is a classic blend used in Moroccan cooking. The name means ‘top of the shop’ or the very best spice blend that a spice merchant (Souk) has to offer. The exact blend is usually kept secret and can contain anywhere between a dozen to thirty individual spices.
for the braise
2 large lamb shanks
tin diced tomatoes
small red onion diced
clove garlic crushed
heaped tablespoon ras el hanout
1 cup beef stock
For the couscous
1 cup moghrabieh
1 tblsp chopped preserved lemon
1 medium parsnip
2 medium carrots
1 large finger eggplant
1 small thin sweet potato
1 tblsp red harissa paste
Preheat the oven to 170ºC if you are cooking this in a casserole dish. Using a slow cooker works equally well and is what I tend to use most, but you will need to start earlier.
Brown the lamb shanks in a frying pan with a little olive oil on medium high. Remove from the pan and place in the slow cooker or a casserole dish.
If needed, add a little more olive oil to the pan and sauté the onion and garlic until just soft, then add the ras el hanout and stir until fragrant. Transfer this mixture to the slow cooker (or casserole dish) then add the tin of tomatoes and beef stock. Stir through to combine everything then leave to cook. In the slow cooker I do 4 hours on high or 8 hours on slow. For a covered casserole dish in the oven you should allow three hours. When the lamb is done, remove the shanks from the braising liquid, roughly shred the meat off the bone and return to the liquid.
To prepare the roast vegetables: peel the carrots, parsnip and sweet potato then cut them and the eggplant in quarters lengthwise. Rub the harissa paste over the vege and place on a roasting tray. If you are cooking the lamb shanks in the oven, the tray of vege can go below and will take 30 minutes. I leave the eggplant out for the first ten.
Cook the mougrabieh according to the instructions on the packet. Fork through the grains to separate them, then drizzle with little olive oil and stir in the preserved lemon and a tablespoon of chopped fresh coriander.
To serve divide the moghrabieh between four plates and spread it out. Arrange the roast vege on top, then spoon on the lamb. A dollop of greek yoghurt and a scattering of fresh coriander on top and you’re done.
If you have leftovers, chop up the roast vege and add it to the lamb. It will freeze well or keep in the fridge for a few days. You can even stir in any leftover moghrabieh.