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Lebanese lamb shank (or mutton) and olive casserole

Updated: Mar 22

Lebanese cuisine is packed with slow-cooked stews loaded with large chunks of meat, lamb, and goat. The stews are redolent with culture, a flashback to the land's rich history. The Lebanese table or feast is always centred around a large stew with multiple sides and lots of pickles and bread. It is a family-style table where individuals enjoy the food and share equally. This eating style and camaraderie build strong bonds between family members and friends.

This stew can be the centrepiece of any Lebanese or regular table. The flavours are rich, and the meat is fork-tender. The seven-spice blend shines subtlety through the tartness from the red wine and pomegranate molasses, and the olives add a lovely salty tang to the dish. You need soft-leavened bread with this stew to sop up the delicious juices. In many ways, this dish uses the French-style cooking of slow braising meat in red wine, but the technique brings together the ingredients and allows them to shine.

The Lebanese Cookbook is a massive volume, with 500 recipes, by an authority on Lebanese cooking. This book is the definitive guide on Lebanese Cuisine by James Beard award-winning author Salma Hage. That combines hundreds of diverse dishes, from light, tempting mezze and salads to hearty main courses, grilled meats, sumptuous sweets, and refreshing drinks. Salma Hage is from Mazarat Tiffah in the mountains of the Kadisha Valley in north Lebanon. She has over 50 years of experience in family cooking – learning to cook from her mother, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law while helping to raise her nine brothers and two sisters. This massive volume is a collection of her work and a lovely book to have on your shelf.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


8 mutton shanks

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 + 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2-3 anchovies in oil, minced

2 teaspoons Lebanese seven-spice mix

1 cup red wine

2 cups water or mutton stock

4 tomatoes, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

20 green olives, halved longitudinally

1-1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 heaped teaspoon of paprika

Basil leaves, roughly torn, for garnish

Coat the mutton shanks with flour, salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan with 1 tablespoon oil and fry four shanks on high heat until they are browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and fry the other four shanks similarly.

Heat a large pot containing the shanks with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and add the onions and garlic. Sautè on low heat till the onions are soft and the garlic is no longer raw.

Mix in the anchovies and seven-spice mix and cook for 1 minute, taking care the spices do not burn. Add the shanks back into the pot, cover with wine, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes till the wine is reduced. Make sure you turn the meat over so all sides are covered with the wine. Add the water/stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and mix well. Ensure the meat is submerged in the cooking liquids, and top up if needed. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 90 minutes. Every 30 minutes, rotate the meat to ensure all sides cook evenly. After 1 hour, ensure the liquids are not dry; if needed, top up with water.

At this point, the liquids should have been reduced, and the meat should be very tender. Add the olives, pomegranate molasses, and paprika. Mix in well and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Taste for salt and spices. The flavours should be rich and lovely.

Serve hot with lavash or other leavened bread.

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