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Moroccan lamb shank, spiced prunes, buttered farro

This is one of those luxury dishes that I have been making for a few years now. I was introduced to this dish at Aziza, Mourad's restaurant in San Francisco. Having just returned from Morocco, I was in love with the cuisine and this single dish made me rush out and buy his cookbook.

This is the dish that is made for serious diners, complex, tedious, but so, so good. The tender soft lamb shanks are smothered in a luxurious onion jus that is scented with coriander and saffron. It is paired with buttered farro and has a side of what I call boozy prunes. The rich meat pairs well with the chewy farro and the acid and sweetness from the prunes cut through the fat. This is the dish that shines on any table and my guests have loved it every time I serve it. To me, it is the dish that says you are special.

This is a fantastic cookbook for Moroccan cuisine from a chef who is a master of the art. Mourad has won a Michelin star and is considered by many to be the originator of contemporary Moroccan cuisine. Bon Apetit has rated this cookbook as one of the world's best in 21011, and it remains one of my favourites. The recipes can be complex, except for a few like this one, but each recipe is divine. I have had dinner at his wonderful restaurant, Aziza, in San Francisco several times, and each time the experience has been a delight and the food outstanding.

For more recipes from this fabulous cookbook, click here.



Ingredients:

For the lamb:

6 lamb or mutton shanks

Oil


2 lb onions, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons ground coriander seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons ginger paste

1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds

2 teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon saffron

8 cups water or lamb or mutton stock

Salt, to taste

Parsley, minced, to garnish


For the farro:

1 cup farro

6 cups water

Salt, to taste

1 onion, finely diced

4 tablespoon butter


For the prunes:

20 prunes

1 cup water

3/4 cup champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons brandy

1 1/2-inch cinnamon stick

10 peppercorns

4-5 allspice berries, or 1 teaspoon ground

1 small bay leaf


To make the prunes:

Add the water, vinegar, sugar, brandy, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, allspice and bay leaf to a small pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes till the sugar has completely dissolved.


Pour over the prunes and allow to marinate at room temperature in a sealed container for 7 days. I have used these for 3 days and they are good.


For the farro:

Boil the farro with salt and water till tender but they still have a bite, about 30 minutes. Drain well in a colander and allow to dry out.


Hate the butter in a wide pan and fry the onions till translucent and soft, about 2 minutes. Add the farro and continue to fry till the farro is well coated with the butter. You can choose to keep the farro soft or fry it for about 10 minutes until they are crisp outside. If crisping, serve immediately.


For the lamb shanks:

Add a drizzle of oil to a wide frying pan and fry the shanks on high till browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.


In a large oven-safe pot, add the oil, and onions, and sauté on medium-low heat till the onions are lightly golden. Stir often to cook the onions evenly.


Add the spices, coriander, ginger, cumin, pepper, turmeric, and saffron, and cook on low heat for 1 minute to release the spice aromas.


Preheat the oven to 375 F.


Add the shanks and any collected juices back into the pot and add the water/stock and salt. Mix well making sure the shanks are submerged into the sauce. Seal the pot with a layer of foil and close tightly with the lid. Braise for 60 minutes undisturbed.


Remove the pot and turn the shanks around using tongs. Seal the pot and braise for 30-45 minutes until the meat is fork-tender and falls off the bone. Using tongs remove the meat from the braising liquid and set it aside, covering them so they do not dry out.


Pureé the braising liquid to a smooth sauce. Add it back to the pot and simmer till you have a thick sauce that will coat the meat thickly. Taste and adjust the salt. The sauce should be well flavoured and intense. Add the meat back into the sauce and set aside till needed.


To serve:

Heat the farro till hot. Add a small scoop to a corner of the plat in a semi-circle. Heat the meat and sauce well. Add a shank with the meat on the farro. Add some of the prunes to a side. Serve immediately garnished with some parsley. Bring the extra prunes to the table.





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