This is a perfect dish for a winter dinner party. Because it’s so rich and complex, all it really needs is some plain rice or polenta, or some crusty bread and a green salad. Although it’s quite time-consuming to make, there’s really nothing more therapeutic on a chilly day than roasting spices then pounding them into a paste with fresh aromatics using a pestle and mortar – the fragrance is quite intoxicating! And after its long braising time, the lamb is infused with all the warm, soft flavours of the spices and is meltingly tender.
After its long braising time, the lamb is infused with all the warm, soft flavours of the spices and is meltingly tender.
- 1 small pinch saffron threads
- 3 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 whole star anise
- 10 cardamom pods
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ cinnamon quill
- ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 large red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, crushed
- 7 cm (3 in) knob ginger, sliced
- ¾ cup finely sliced coriander stems and roots
- 30 g (1 oz) turmeric, finely sliced
- 75 g (2½ oz) galangal, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp white peppercorns
- ⅓ cup finely sliced red shallots
- ¼ tsp sweet paprika
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup firmly packed palm sugar
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 8 baby lamb shanks – about 2 kg (4 lb) in total
- 1 pinch sea salt and cracked white pepper
- 3 medium-sized vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 6 kipfler potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut into wedges
- 5 salad onions, trimmed and cut into quarters
- 4 fresh dates, halved
- 4 fresh apricots, halved
- 6 bay leaves
- 3 cups chicken stock
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
- First, make the paste. Combine saffron with 2 teaspoons of boiling water and set aside. Put fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorns in a small frying pan and dry-roast over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Pound roasted spices with a pestle and mortar until cardamom is bruised. Discard cardamom husks and keep pounding until all the spices are finely ground. Set aside.
- Pound chillies, garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric and galangal with the pestle and mortar until you have a coarse paste. Add salt and white peppercorns, and pound until peppercorns are lightly crushed. Add shallots, saffron water, paprika, reserved ground spices and oil, and mix well to combine.
- Put paste in a medium-sized frying pan and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add palm sugar and fish sauce. Increase heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for a further 2 minutes, or until mixture is slightly caramelised. Remove from stove and set aside.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper and seal in a hot, oiled roasting tin on the stove top until lightly browned on all sides. Drain off any excess oil and drizzle prepared paste over lamb, combining over high heat to coat well and seal in flavours. Add tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, dates, apricots and bay leaves, and stir to combine. Remove tin from stove, pour over stock and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake for a further 1 hour, or until lamb is very tender and well browned.
- Remove lamb from oven and drizzle with lime juice and fish sauce before serving.