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Spiced Lamb Shanks with Almonds and Dates

slideshow More Amazing Lamb Recipes

  • Servings: 6

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  • 3 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions—1 finely chopped, 1 coarsely chopped
  • 12 pitted dates, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each), trimmed of fat
  • 15 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 3 cups red wine


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a heatproof bowl, cover the chiles with the boiling water and set aside until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain and chop the chiles.
  2. Meanwhile, put the almonds on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, stirring once, for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
  3. In a small skillet, toast the allspice, fennel seeds and cloves over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 1 minute; let cool. Grind to a powder in a spice grinder. Empty into a bowl and mix in the cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over moderately high heat. Add the finely chopped onion and 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Scrape the spiced onion into a food processor and add the chiles, dates and vinegar. Process to a coarse paste. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin steady stream. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and stir in the almonds. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the remaining 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Add them to the casserole and brown over moderately high heat, about 4 minutes on each side; transfer to a platter. Add the coarsely chopped onion, garlic, carrots, tomato paste, the remaining spice mixture and 3 tablespoons of the chile-almond paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the stock and wine and add the shanks.
  6. Transfer the lamb shanks and carrots to a large platter, cover with foil and keep warm. Boil the stewing liquid over high heat until reduced and flavorful, about 10 minutes. Spread 2 tablespoons of the chile-almond paste over each lamb shank and place on a dinner plate along with some carrots. Spoon a generous amount of sauce over the meat and serve.
  7. Cover the casserole and bring the liquid to a boil, then cook the shanks in the oven, turning them once, for about 2 1/2 hours, or until very tender.

Make Ahead

The lamb stew can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Remove the fat from the surface and reheat in a 350° oven before proceeding to Step 5.

The chile-almond paste can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before proceeding to Step 7.

Suggested Pairing

Try the rich, spicy flavors of the Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Other options: the softer Marqu&és de Riscal, a leathery Rioja Reserva, or the Vallformosa PenedÉs Gran Reserva. There is a strong affinity between the sherrylike raisin tones of Spanish wines and the dates and spices in this North African-accented stew.

Contributed By Published January 1997

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