Lamb Shanks Braised with Figs, Star Anise & Blood Orange.

Yesterday I enjoyed a gloriously lengthy and varied day of food shopping. Setting off around midday, I stopped first at my local butcher for these shanks, before hopping on the train to Borough Market, specifically to visit Brindisa for a chorizo sandwich (for the next SATC). From there, on to Covent Garden Tea House (to get a present for @Rossella76 – more of that soon), then to Peckham’s Wing Tai supermarket (for miso soup ingredients) and finally (phew!) stopping at the local Sainsbury’s for some extras. Now that’s what I call food shopping.

I’m glad I made the most of the sunshine yesterday, because now we have rain – perfect lamb shank weather. I realise there’s been a lot of meat recently on Food Stories, but I hope you don’t mind me sneaking another one in. The shanks were a bit of an experiment really as, even with all that ingredient shopping, I really hadn’t planned a recipe for them.

Looking through the day’s haul, the blood oranges were winking at me through their bright red paper packaging, so I decided to use some peel in the braise. A rummage in the cupboard also turned up some dried figs, which I thought would be delicious with a little star anise, at least if Wholefood’s fig and anise bread is anything to go by.

The overall idea was to create a sweet, spiced sauce for the lamb, with (hopefully), enough tang coming through from the oranges. I threw in a few other aromatics as a base (onion, garlic, carrot, celery) and some weakish stock (from a cube, shock horror!) and cooked them very slowly for just shy of four hours.

By this time, the meat just fell off the bone, so melty and tender. I’m happy to report that the sauce was also a success. Deep, sweet, spicy (Greg Wallace) and flecked with fig seeds. I served the lamb on top of cous cous, flavoured with mint and blood orange zest, which soaked up all of those wonderful juices and freshened up the whole dish rather nicely.

Tummy full, I gave myself a pat on the back for coming up trumps in the ‘invention test’ and then again for having bought a third shank, just in case (even though it did cost me nearly £8 for three). We gobbled up the leftovers barely an hour after the first sitting. That’s a whole lotta sheep in my belly. So it’s fish, fruit and veg for Food Stories this week, I’m in need of a little cleansing. Not a bad way to finish a meat binge though, even if I do say so myself.

Lamb Shanks Braised with Figs, Star Anise and Blood Orange.
(I realise that three shanks is a bit of an odd number for a recipe, but it’s a one pot, slow cooking job, so quantities don’t need to be exact, just add a bit more stock if you have a fourth shank).

3 lamb shanks
2 small onions, peeled and halved
1 carrot, halved
1 stick celery
8 dried figs, de-stemmed and quartered
4 strips blood orange zest and juice of half (plus extra zest, about 1 tablespoon, for the cous cous)
2 star anise
3 cloves garlic, peeled
800ml hot stock (ideally lamb, but I was desperate and just used a chicken stock cube)
Small handful mint, chopped
Cous cous (enough for three people? who knows, its just cous cous)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil/groundnut oil or whatever you use
I also rubbed a tablespoon of ground coriander seeds and a few ‘bruised’ caraway seeds onto the shanks. I was after fennel seeds but ran out and used caraway instead. I’m not sure how much difference the spices made to the overall flavour.

– Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
– Season the shanks with salt and pepper and rub in the spices if using. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan (such as a cast iron skillet) and brown the shanks on all sides (about 6-8 minutes in total), before removing to an oven dish or casserole, ideally.
– In the same pan, brown the onion, carrot and celery for about 5 minutes, before adding to the oven dish with the lamb. Add the star anise, orange zest and juice, garlic, figs and stock before covering tightly with a lid or foil (or both) and cooking until the meat falls away from the bone. Many recipes say 2.5-3 hours for this but I cooked mine for 4.
– To make the cous cous, pour some hot stock or water onto it, until it just covers, and leave for 5 minutes or so before fluffing up with a fork and adding salt and pepper, chopped mint and the orange zest.
– Remove the shanks to a warm plate and put the oven dish on the stove (on the heat), adding a little slackened cornflour if you want to thicken the sauce. Give the vegetables, figs etc. a good mush down into the sauce and then strain it through a sieve, pressing to get as much flavour as possible.
– Serve each shank on top of a pile of cous cous, with that yummy sauce poured all over it.

Category: Fruit, Main Dishes, Meat 23 comments »

23 Responses to “Lamb Shanks Braised with Figs, Star Anise & Blood Orange.”

  1. Peter

    I love this dish…the figs, star anise, the bed of couscous. The ‘money shot’ is the one of the rendered, flaky.

    I could almost buy you a “Natural Harvest” cookbook right about now. ;)

    Peters last blog post..If I Owned a Steakhouse in Greece

  2. Helen

    Thanks Peter. Although, no ‘natural harvest’ required to make this dish, I promise! ;) Can you actually buy that book? I mean, can you imagine being a publisher and receiving that proposal?!

  3. Christie @ fig&cherry

    A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! I’ve got some dried wild figs at home in the pantry and they are now destined for this dish… if the weather cools down in Oz by the time I get back there next week!

    What are you going to do with the extra shank? I say shred it and make into a curry! Ooooh, yum.

  4. Helen

    thank you Christie. I love the idea of currying the extra shank but you are about an hour too late I’m afraid, eaten it already!

  5. shauna

    that’s a great plate of food!

    shaunas last blog post..Hopelessly Devoated

  6. MsGourmet

    love a good shank… will have to bookmark this one for winter!

    MsGourmets last blog post..Qarabaghli mimli bil-laham – the food of my childhood

  7. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    This looks wonderful, Helen! I love that great combination of flavors you used. It’s a perfect dish for a chilly evening.

    Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewys last blog post..Nutella & Banana Filled Aebleskiver for World Nutella Day

  8. Peter G

    Spicy, sweet and very exotic combination Helen! Love how you treated the shanks and cous cous….and I totally understand about not waiting for the leftovers!

  9. Lizzie

    Very inventive indeed! It looks so tasty. Shame lamb shanks have gone up so much in price since they became ‘trendy’.

    Lizzies last blog post..Chickpea & Mint Leg of Lamb

  10. Helen

    Thanks all! And yes, Lizzie – such a shame! I would be eating them all the time otherwise :(

  11. Niamh

    Wow, Helen! You never fail to impress. What a creative dish! I will be trying this. Thanks for sharing.

    Niamhs last blog post..Cosy, quick and healthy snacking

  12. Gourmet Chick

    I like the Master Chef references. I am sure Greg and John would say that you have an amazing palate and if you just finished off with a chocolate fondant the Master Chef crown would be yours!

    Gourmet Chicks last blog post..Bocca di Lupo

  13. Kevin

    That looks really good! I like the use of the figs in a dish like this.

    Kevins last blog post..Ham and Cheese Egg Casserole

  14. nina

    My son also “copies” Greg Wallis at dinner table when he reviews my meals….
    I like the fruitiness with the meat…..sweet and salty to me is always a winning combo!

    ninas last blog post..Pork-fillet-with-a-creamy-mushroom-and-sweet-wine-sauce

  15. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen

    Wow, Helen! That looks amazing – falling off the bone absolute goodness!

    JennDZ_The LeftoverQueens last blog post..February Royal Foodie Joust Winners!

  16. Y

    Yum that looks so delicious!

    Ys last blog post..Daring Bakers Challenge : Tuiles

  17. thepinkpeppercorn

    What a beautiful dish! Doesn’t get any better than lamb shank, so I can’t blame you one bit for not leaving any leftovers either!

    thepinkpeppercorns last blog post..valentine’s in calgary

  18. Michelle

    Me loves it! I tend to use red wine and stock for my shanks but this will definitely make a refreshing change. Bookmarked!

    Michelles last blog post..Pan-Fried Seabass with Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce and Spring Vegetables

  19. Jessica


    Just wanted to let you know that I love your blog. I’m a new-to-London Canadian food blogger and your site has really helped me get a few good restaurant recommendations, and plenty of good recipe ideas! (Also now following you on Twitter).

    And these lamb shanks are definitely going on the menu for this weekend! Thanks!

    Jessica (Wattscooking)

    Jessicas last blog post..Thinking Seasonally

  20. David Hall

    Sensational Helen, this looks amazing, making me drool. I’m going to have to make this one in the next couple of weeks, thanks for that.

    Dave x

  21. Mike

    I’ve been over-exuberantly buying blood oranges and then not having any idea what to do with them, so I just have been gobbling them up. This looks like the perfect thing for me to try this weekend (and put a dent in my big pile of blood oranges)!

  22. Jamie

    Wow this looks delicious! Don’t know how easy it will be to find lamb shanks in France, but boy does this make me want to make this dish! Beautiful!

    Jamies last blog post..MY HEART’S DESIRE

  23. StillThinking

    This recipe looks amazing! My mouth is watering. I am an amateur cook who enjoys trying new things out. This recipe has so many ingredients that I already love and adore. Blood oranges, lamb shanks, star anise, figs! My goodness, I can’t wait to drop this lovely on my unsuspecting friends. Thank you for such a wonderful blog!

    StillThinkings last blog post..Green Architecture

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