A rustic winter warmer! Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas! What l love about this dish is its simplicity. The meaty, tender flavour and juiciness of the lamb shanks is what shines through. The lamb, chickpeas (and veggies) are cooked in a broth using my special flavour tip of dried figs for just a hint of sweetness. A wholesome one-pot meal for those cold winter nights!!
My inspiration for this meal comes from a recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s book, The Cook’s Companion. Stephanie Alexander is an Australian cook and restaurateur. Although l have deviated from her original recipe, the central idea of keeping it simple and honest remains the same.
Using fresh ingredients is what’s important to me when l am cooking. I think this is why Stephanie’s original recipe appealed to me so much. There’s no complicated techniques or twists here, just a gentle method of cooking that retains the moisture of the lamb with ingredients that are inexpensive, fresh and accessible!
In Australia, lamb shanks are relatively inexpensive. While they take time to cook, they are what l call a ‘low maintenance’ cut of meat, by this l mean they require little attention. They are also very forgiving in case you overshoot the cooking time. The worst thing that can happen is that they become even more tender to the point where the meat falls off the bone completely. That’s not a bad thing!!
The chickpeas absorb all the wonderful flavours of the lamb broth and add a lovely texture. When time permits, l prefer to use dried chickpeas. Once cooked, they are slightly bigger than tinned/canned chickpeas. I soak them overnight before boiling them until they are tender. Tinned chickpeas are still a good alternative, just rinse them thoroughly beforehand.
The lamb shanks do take time to cook, but they’re worth every minute!!
Preparation Time: 10 mins Cooking Time: 2 hours Serves: 4
- 4 lamb shanks (Note 1)
- 5 cups of stock or water
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 6 sprigs of parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- plain (all purpose) flour for coating the shanks
- 1 cup of dried chickpeas or 2 x tins chickpeas (Note 2)
- 2 medium size onions, diced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled
- 3 – 4 small potatoes, peeled
- 4 -6 dried figs, halved
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- Salt to taste
- Trim the excess fat from the shanks. Roll them in flour.
- Place the diced onion, meat, herbs, cinnamon stick, dried figs in a casserole dish. Add 5 cups of stock or water (Note 3).
- Bring to a simmering point and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. After 1 hour, add the chickpeas. Skim any scum or fat that may rise to the surface (Note 4).
- Add the vegetables and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes.
- Check that the shanks are tender. Check broth for saltiness. You can remove the cinnamon stick and figs if you wish. Break up the carrots and potatoes into small chunks with the back of a spoon.
- A hearty meal all on it’s own!! Otherwise, rice or couscous served separately from the meat and juices make great accompaniments.
- I selected shanks that are on the slightly smaller side. They are a perfect fit for my 20 cm / 8″ pot.
- If you choose to go down the dried chickpea route rather than the tinned version, place the chickpeas in a bowl and cover generously with water. Soak overnight. Once soaked, cook the chickpeas for 1 1/2 hours (or until tender) in salted water. Drain and set aside. Otherwise, rinse the tinned chickpeas thoroughly and set aside.
- There should be enough stock or water to cover the shanks. Depending on the size of your casserole or pot, you may need to adjust the amount of liquid required.
- Lamb is quite rich in saturated fat. You might find that some fat may pool on the surface during simmering. I tend to skim this off if l think there’s too much.