• Star anise is the spice star in these shanks. (SBS)Source: SBS

You had me at lamb shank. The star anise celebrates rich and wintery flavours, by bringing a warming liquorice sweetness to a slow-cooked staple. 






Skill level

Average: 2 (3 votes)

The liquorice character of star anise always elicits a strong reaction in my spice classes. Some love it. Others loathe it. There isn’t much in between. But in this recipe, it’s the sweetness of star anise that will really shine through in the end result.

I use star anise in any dish that will benefit from a deep well of rich sweetness. As a structural spice, star anise will work to support the surrounding spice. 

In this dish, star anise will draw forward the sweetness in the tomato, contrast with the grit and resonant heat of cracked black pepper, play into the rich umami quality of the lamb fat, and connect warmth to the astringent quality of garlic and onion. If you do want to emphasise the liquorice quality of star anise in a dish, add a little aniseed - ⅓ tsp is enough.

Top star anise tips

• Star anise is a strong spice that likes to be met. To keep it from overwhelming a dish, pair with dried bay leaf, black pepper and a little ground fenugreek.

• One or two whole star anise popped in a pan of morning porridge is a warming start to the day.

• Got a winter dessert recipe that calls for a ginger syrup? Add star anise to the syrup recipe and taste as ginger takes on an even deeper, spicier, sweeter warmth.


  • 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp fine pink salt
  • 2 large bay leaf
  • 3 star anise
  • ⅓ tsp fine white pepper
  • 1 tsp fine caster sugar
  • 500 ml good quality veal stock
  • ⅓ cup red wine (optional)
  • 400 g Brussels sprout, quartered

Cook's notes

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.


  1. Heat mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan to high heat. Brown lamb shanks in hot oil until browned on all sides. Takes about 4-5 minutes. Remove lamb shanks from the pot and set aside.
  2. Core tomatoes and cut a cross into the base of each. Place them in a deep bowl and cover with the boiled water. Once softened, skin and dice.
  3. In the same pot as the lamb shanks, brown garlic and onion. Lower the heat, add ground fenugreek, black pepper, 1 tsp salt, bay leaf and star anise. Cook for about 5 minutes, making sure that the spice doesn’t burn.
  4. Add skinned and chopped tomatoes, the remaining salt, fine white pepper and caster sugar. Stir through for another 10 minutes, until fragrant.
  5. Add back the browned lamb shanks to the pot. Pour in veal stock and the red wine (if using). Top the pot with a little bit of water, just enough to cover the lamb shanks. Leave it on medium heat.
  6.  Add Brussels sprouts to the pot. Once tossed through, turn down to a simmer and cover with a lid. Cook 6 hours, or until lamb shanks are falling off their bone
  7.  Serve with your choice of couscous, rice, pasta, or salad. 


'Not just curry' is a fortnightly recipe column on SBS Food lead by spice lover, Sarina Kamini. It shares the flavourful insights and potential behind a different spice that may be tucked away in your pantries and is celebrated with a brand-new recipe. Find out more here.

Photography, styling and food preparation by Sarina Kamini.