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July 13, 2010 / amyjmcintosh

Moroccan lamb shanks with chickpeas

If you’re out to impress your next dinner guests, I have the recipe for you! Lamb shanks with chickpeas, hello sailor!

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This recipe is testament to the fact that good food isn’t necessarily complicated or over-worked.  I found this gold nugget in one of my favourite cookbooks, Home Food (Murdoch Books).

The recipe says you can go for eight small shanks or four big ones… I went with four. The meat falls off the bone and the sauce has a delicious cinnamon taste with a spicy aftertaste from the harissa (a kitchen essential).


  • 1 tbs oil
  • 4 large or 8 small lamb shanks
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbs harissa (a North African paste made from dried red chillies; available from delis)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x 300g cans chickpeas, drained
  • 90g green olives
  • 1/2 tablespoon preserved lemon or lemon zest, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs mint, chopped

Heat the oil in a large casserole dish over a medium heat and fry the lamb shanks until they are well browned all over (this step is crucial as the browning adds to the flavour of the sauce). Add the onion and garlic and fry them for a couple of mins until the onion starts to soften.

Add the harissa, cinnamon and salt and pepper to the casserole, stir everything together, then add the chopped tomato and bring everything to the boil. If there doesn’t seem to be enough liquid (the shanks need to be pretty well covered), add a bit of water. Put the lid on and turn the heat down until the liquid is simmering, then cook for 50 mins.

Add the chickpeas, olives and lemon to the pan and stir them into the liquid. Season to taste and continue cooking with the lid off for another 20 to 30 mins. By this time, the lamb shold be very tender and almost falling off the bone. If it isn’t, just keep cooking, checking every  mins until it is. Using a big spoon, scoop any orange-coloured oil off the top, then stir in the mint. Serve with extra harissa if you like the heat! Serve with couscous.

Serves four.

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