Our butcher shouts with laughter if you ask him for six or even four lamb shanks — he only buys one or two lambs at a time, so the number of shanks is strictly limited. Luckily that palace of frozen food, Picard, always has a plentiful supply of frozen New Zealand lamb, with shanks in packs of two. Cooked until falling off the bone, they are a really delicious morsel and go particularly well with dried fruit, as the famous seven-hour lamb from Le Manchon d’Henri demonstrated.
This tajine is very special too; a concentrated, spicy sauce with the rich flavours of prunes, apricots and figs, and meltingly tender meat. If you can’t get shanks, you could just use cubed leg or shoulder. Serve it with couscous (of course). This dish makes me wonder why we don’t eat more North African food.
6 lamb shanks
12 dried apricots
6 dried figs
50 g sultanas or dried cranberries
50 g blanched almonds
50 g cashew nuts
3 tbs runny honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ras-el-hanout (North African spice mixture)
1 pinch saffron
1 pinch cumin
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
Peel and slice the onions. Heat the oil in a large fireproof casserole or tagine and brown the meat on all sides. Remove and add the onions. Cook gently until softened, then add 300 ml hot water. Return the meat to the casserole with all the spices, salt and pepper. Simmer covered for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C. Add all the fruit and the honey to the casserole and cook in the oven for a further hour. Toast the nuts lightly in a frying pan, and add ten minutes before the end of cooking time.