The overall idea here 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 and the sauce was 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.
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 the sauce poured all over it.