Nigella Lawson’s lamb shanks with dates and pomegranate molasses

Serves 6

Rich, sumptuous, and celebratory, this is a real feast of a stew. The dark, molasses-like dates melt into what becomes a deep, intense gravy, but they don’t overwhelm it with sweetness; the heady sourness of pomegranate molasses keeps it all in fragrant check. But if, when you taste it at the end of its cooking time, you feel you want a bit more acerbity, just squeeze in a little lime juice.

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Ingredients

3 tbsp
regular olive oil
2
large onions, peeled and roughly chopped (3 1/2 cups, loosely packed)
4
fat cloves of garlic, bruised and slightly splintered with the flat side if a wide-bladed knife, then slipped out of their skins
2
large carrots, peeled and cut into chunky slices on the diagonal
2 tsp
ground cumin
1 tsp
ground cinnamon
1 tsp
ground allspice
2 tsp
ground black pepper
2 tsp
sea salt of kosher salt
2 tsp
finely chopped rosemary, plus more to sprinkle
1 1/2 cups
soft, dry pitted dates, approx. 30 small, or 15 large, halved
1 1/4 cups
1
lime, to squeeze if wished
pomegranate seeds, to serve

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 300°F. Put the lamb shanks into a large bowl and pour the olive oil over them, then turn and rub them well to make sure the oil lightly coats all the meat.
  • Heat a wide, heavy-based Dutch oven or ovenproof pan that the shanks can all fit in snugly, and which has a tight-fitting lid. Put half the shanks in to brown over a medium-high heat. Once they are lightly browned, after about 5 minutes, put the first 3 shanks back into the bowl, and repeat with the remaining shanks.
  • Once all the lamb shanks are out of the pan, turn the heat down to medium and fry the onions, garlic cloves, and carrots for another 5 minutes or so until they start to lose their crispness.
  • Stir in the spices, pepper, salt, and finely chopped rosemary, then tip in the dates and pour in the chicken broth and pomegranate molasses. Once you have stirred this all together and the pan is bubbling, sit the shanks back in, scraping in any juices from the bowl, with the meaty side mostly in the liquid. You will need to fit them in like a jigsaw puzzle in a single layer. Don’t worry that there isn’t much liquid in the pan; you don’t want there to be or the sauce will be too runny later.
  • Tear off a large piece of parchment paper and place it over the top of the meat and tuck it in well before clamping on the lid. Transfer immediately to the oven.
  • Cook for approximately 3 hours but check after 2½ hours whether the lamb is tender. The meat on the bone should be quite soft and starting to come away from the shank, so be gentle as you lift them out of the pan. Arrange in a large, shallow bowl. Check the rich liquid in the pan for seasoning, adding a little lime juice if you want more sharpness, then spoon some of the dark sauce over each shank and sprinkle with a little finely chopped rosemary. Pour the rest of the thick fruity gravy around the shanks and, if you aren’t suffering from pomegranate seed fatigue, scatter glisteningly on top.

Excerpted from At My Table by Nigella Lawson. Copyright © 2017 by Nigella Lawson. Photography copyright © 2017 by Jonathan Lovekin. Published byAppetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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Photo credit: Photography copyright © 2017 by Jonathan Lovekin.

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